By Randel Everett – 21Wilberforce –
Freedom of religion is both America’s first freedom and a universal human right. Yet many people around the world live in countries where this right is denied or restricted. Twenty-five years ago, IRFA was enacted to elevate religious freedom as a higher priority in U.S. foreign policy and strengthen the United States’ advocacy on behalf of individuals persecuted in foreign countries on account of their religion or belief. On October 27, 1998, the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) elevated freedom of religion or belief as a U.S. foreign policy priority. This landmark law mandates that U.S. policy include condemning violations of religious freedom abroad and assisting foreign governments to protect this fundamental right. IRFA established the U.S. Department of State’s Ambassador at Large and Office for International Religious Freedom and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).
Twenty-five years later, global religious freedom concerns are more integrated than ever before into U.S. diplomacy, human rights programming, refugee resettlement, development efforts, humanitarian aid, and training. Violations have been documented and exposed and violators sanctioned. Repressive governments have changed laws and policies, and they have released prisoners. Issues of international religious freedom now receive significant media and public attention. And importantly, the United States no longer stands alone in recognizing the significance, for global peace and prosperity, of freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) for everyone, everywhere.
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USICRF) published a summary of their achievements over the past 25 years that you can download here.