(WASHINGTON) — Declaring that religious freedom is an essential component of democracy, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared on Monday that the world seems to be regressing in allowing people to worship as they choose.
Unveiling the 2011 State Department International Religious Freedom Report, Clinton said, “Members of faith communities that have long been under pressure report that pressure is rising. When it comes to this human right…the world is sliding backwards.”
Among the worst offenders is China, cited by the State Department for slapping more restrictions on Tibetan Buddhist monks, Muslims and other religious groups not affiliated with Beijing’s official state-sanctioned “patriotic religious associations.”
The report also called out North Korea, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan and Burma, also known as Myanmar, which has just begun to reestablish relations with the U.S. after more than half-a-century.
In countries that have undergone democratic revolutions over the past year, Clinton pointed out that religious freedom remains tenuous in Egypt as sectarian violence has increased against Coptic Christians although the secretary said she received assurances from Egypt’s new Muslim president that his administration would be inclusive of all faiths.
There has been some progress as well in Libya as its new leaders said they would no longer abide by laws enforced by the late Col. Moammar Gadhafi, who restricted religious freedom, choosing instead to allow freedom of religion.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Steve Almasy, CNN
James Griffiths and Shen Lu
Mohammed Tawfeeq and Gul Tuysuz, CNN