For Immediate Release
October 27, 2019
Today, October 27, we celebrate International Religious Freedom Day, and join with the rest of the United States Government and global human rights and development community in underscoring the importance of religious freedom in all facets of a country’s development. Religious freedom is a fundamental human right, and here in the United States we consider it our first freedom. It is also an indicator of a country’s commitment and capacity to inclusive development and its progress on the journey to self-reliance.
Around the world, we are bearing witness to severe violations of individuals’ rights to religious freedom, including discrimination and persecution based on religious belief. These are serious violations that often become risk factors and early warning signs of genocide and mass atrocities. We are also deeply committed to continuing to support recovery and justice for those whose religious freedom has been violated through our humanitarian and development assistance.
For instance, USAID is working in northern Iraq to help members of ethnic and religious minority communities, such as Yazidis and Christians, recover from genocide perpetrated by ISIS, so they are able to remain in – or return to – their ancestral homes. We are helping to meet immediate needs like food, water, and shelter; rehabilitate critical infrastructure; improve access to health, education, and legal services; and strengthen dialogue and reconciliation efforts. USAID’s humanitarian response in Burma and Bangladesh has included protection, emergency shelter, food, water, sanitation, health care, psychosocial support, and education for people affected by the crisis. This funding also includes programs to improve disaster preparedness.
Our work is far from over. The United States will continue to stand for those individuals around the world who endure persecution for seeking to live out their faith.