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A New Report Reveals Troubling Threats to Global Religious Freedom

A New Report Reveals Troubling Threats to Global Religious Freedom

Rabbi David Saperstein, former director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and current U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, delivered his first International Religious Freedom report this week. The 2014 report marks the 17th year of the congressionally-mandated International Religious Freedom Report, showing U.S. commitment to promoting religious freedom worldwide. This report consists of 200 distinct reports of countries and territories throughout the globe, giving a voice to oppressed populations who otherwise go unheard.

This year’s report highlighted the impacts of many non-state actors on suppressing religious practices and observances, and shares that the number of people who live in countries with restrictions on religious freedom increased in 2014.

Troubling developments highlighted in the report include:

The report also highlights improvements on religious freedom and solidarity between different faiths throughout the world. For example, following terror attacks in Denmark, people of different faiths formed a ring around the synagogue in Copenhagen to show support for the Jewish community. Kyrgyzstan ruled part of their religious law unconstitutional, allowing more freedom for religious minorities to practice their beliefs.

With respect to China, Ambassador Saperstein said, “In areas of the country where the government's hand was lighter, faith-based social service and welfare agencies operate homeless shelters, orphanages, soup kitchens, and made highly positive contributions to the well-being of their society,” showing faith groups were flourishing in some regions.

As I consider my weekly Shabbat celebration, I am thankful for the freedom to light candles, say Kiddush, and celebrate with my family. Jewish tradition teaches, “You shall not hate your kinsfolk in your heart” (Leviticus 19:17) and commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves. As a North American Jewish community who lives in a place where we can freely practice our religion, we must work to create a world where all people have the same freedom.

For more information on international religious freedom you can read the full report or watch the release of the report.

Rachel Landman is the assistant director of 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy in Byfield, MA, where she ran the inaugural summer Israel program, which focused on exploring Israel through the lens of science and technology. She holds a degree in biology from Hamilton College and served as an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. She is an alumna of URJ Crane Lake Camp and grew up at Brooklyn Heights Synagogue in Brooklyn, NY. 

Rachel Landman
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