On Wednesday, the United States State Department released its latest report on international religious freedom.

The annual report covers events that unfolded throughout 2023.

“This report advances our vision for a future where everyone is able to choose and practice their beliefs, including the right not to believe or ascribe to a faith,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a press conference about the new report. “Respecting religious freedom ... empowers people to express themselves, to live up to their full potential, to contribute fully to their communities.”

The report is used to update Congress about circumstances affecting people of faith around the world.

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2023 State Department report on religious freedom

The State Department’s report found that religious discrimination remains highly prevalent in many countries and that it often leads to violence.

For example, antisemitism and Islamophobia, which were both exacerbated by the Israeli-Hamas conflict, have incited multiple terrorist attacks outside of the Middle East.

Governments in some countries still discriminate against people of faith, close churches, mosques and synagogues, and require or outlaw modes of religious dress and behavior, the report said.

Though much of the report is depressing, Blinken shared positives, too, during Wednesday’s press conference.

“People around the world are also working hard to protect religious freedom,” he said. “We see that in the religious leaders advocating across the globe on behalf of the Baha’is, who are being suppressed and persecuted in Iran and across the Middle East; in activists like Rushan Abbas, who is raising awareness about the genocide and crimes against humanity that China is committing against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang.”


He went on to detail the civil protests and legislative efforts underway in multiple countries to ensure freedom of religion.

  • Czechia, or the Czech Republic, met with religious leaders from around the world to gather ideas on ways to preserve religious freedom.
  • Saudi Arabia rewrote its textbooks to remove intolerant language.
  • German officials are building legal cases against ISIS members who had participated in religious genocides in Iraq and Syria.

The United States has poured over $100 million into religious freedom initiatives since 2021, Blinken noted. The money has helped fund programs centered on anti-discrimination, human rights legislation, humanitarian aid for refugees and a new project meant to train diplomats and authorities on how they can best protect religious freedom.

How to encourage religious freedom from home

How can we join the work and protect religious freedom from home? Here are a couple of ideas.

  • Learn about other faiths: Educate yourself on various religions to broaden your perspective and promote a more inclusive environment. Engage civilly and with interest in faith-related conversations on social media. Take a class or read sacred books from other faiths. Learn about people who don’t seem to be like you — embrace your differences and your commonalities.
  • Join clubs, programs and more: Engage in local community groups. Get involved with your school board. Take part in clubs and political organizations that stand for religious tolerance and understanding.
  • Research who you vote for: Ensure that the candidates you support will put their power behind protecting religious freedom and ending discrimination. Learn about their personal beliefs and the previous actions they have taken to protect others’ human rights. Donate to and advocate on behalf of candidates who support tolerance and freedom.
  • Volunteer for charities: Support organizations that promote religious freedom and provide aid to persecuted religious communities. Build food boxes or donate your items or your time to help bring relief to vulnerable communities.

“In this effort to defend, to protect religious freedom, to advance it, we’re all in this together,” Blinken said Wednesday.

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