For Immediate Release
September 16, 2004
From remarks by Secretary of State Powell, 9/15/04
Secretary Powell has submitted to Congress the State Department's sixth annual Report on International Religious Freedom, which documents the conditions of religious freedom around the world.
The report's Executive Summary acknowledges countries, such as Georgia and Turkey, that have adopted good practices or have taken steps to promote greater tolerance for all religious faiths. The report also makes clear that too many people in the world are still denied their basic human right of religious liberty.
The report identifies what we refer to as Countries of Particular Concern -- governments that engage in or tolerate gross infringements of religious freedom. These decisions are based on a careful assessment of the facts and represent a fundamental standard of human dignity that all nations should uphold.
Five countries continue to violate their citizens' religious liberty. They are Burma, China, Iran, North Korea and Sudan. Three additional countries have been added to this list: Eritrea, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam.
America will continue engaging the Countries of Particular Concern with whom we have bilateral relationships. Our existing partnerships have flourished in numerous capacities and they are just one of the best ways for us to encourage our friends to adopt tolerant practices.
Religious liberty is the first freedom of the human soul. America stands for that freedom in our own country, and we speak for that freedom throughout the world. Government exists to protect human rights, not to restrict them, and America stands in solidarity with people everywhere who wish to worship without coercion.