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Freedom of Religion

Page history last edited by Fiona 14 years, 8 months ago


The Right of Religious Freedom:


 Religious Freedom is the right to openly profess and practice your own belief without any violent or discriminatory repercussions. It is also the right to change your religion without penalty. Religion itself is mentioned in Articles 2, 16, and 18 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 18 deals directly with the issue:



          Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.


(The United Nations.)


Violations of Article 18:


 In several places, mostly in Asia and Africa, this right is denied. Some governments openly endorse or even encourage discrimination and violence towards people based solely on their religious beliefs. In other places governments require that religions be 'registered' and then proceed to not approve religions that they disagree with making it so that anyone who practices that belief is breaking the law. Such is the case even in places like Vietnam, China, Russia, Egypt and, Saudi Arabia.  


For example, Russian Muslims have been denied that the right to build mosques by local authorities in at least 13 cities. However, in other parts of Russia, Muslim groups have gained permission and have been welcome to build their religious structures. In such cases, violations are localized and non-widespread. Overall, In Russia at least, the situation is improving. (Tass)



Why Do Some Countries Violate This Right?:


Some countries have highly religious governments that tend toward religious extremes. These types of governments tend to be violators of the right to religious freedom. Their interpretations of their religious texts sometimes lead them to believe that their duty is to eliminate or, at the very least, discorage other religions. Some governments, mostly communist, are against religion all together and have many policies against people openly practicing religion.


Some countries that have been designated by the by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)as 'Contries of Particular Concern', in regards to religious rights are:



In the People's Republic of China Tibetian Buddhists, Uighur Muslims, Roman Catholics, Protestent Christians and vatious other religious groups including the Falun Gong, are repressed peoples. The Chinese Government strongly discourages any type of religious convictions because they believe that it spreads 'instability, seperatism, and subversion'. The government follows a 'religion registration program' that gives it a lot of control over it's citizens religious rights. Tibetian Buddhists and Uighur Muslims are subject to brutal abuses of their rights as they are listed by the government to be 'cults'. (Bansal)


-People protesting China's control over Tibet.




Vietnam has had countined arrest and detain for religious activism.  A lot of religious minorities like Protestants and Buddhists are targeted for their religious convictions. More specifically, Vietnamese Mennonites and Hao Hao Buddhists.  The major problem is that national laws are not enforced on a local level in several places in Vietnam. There is some progress to improve the situation, but it is uneven and in and of itself discriminatory towards some religions. Also, there are people who speak out for religious freedom and are arrested for it. The Vietnamese government also continues to 'crackdown' on advocates for freedom of speech. (Bansal)



In the case of Uzbekistan the government is still arresting Muslims as well as closing mosques that do not comform to government-approved practices. People who object to this have been arrested and some have even been denied the right to due process.  There have also been some reports that say that arrested persons have been beaten and tortured during their detention. According to a USCIRF 2007 report, there were over 5,000 Muslims in jail for not comforming to the governments religious standards and over 100 religious organizations are denied status as registered religions, making the practice of them illegal. (Bansal)


What do People Think?

People whose rights are violated are generally afraid to be open to others about their religion and are frustrated by their governments and/or fellow citizens criticism and discrimination against their beliefs. People who violate the rights and also afraid by the power that religious convictions have over people and therefore attempt to crush it or are under the belief that is is their moral obligation to raise their interpretation of a particular religion above all others, either one is emotional and hard to argue against. People around the world, especially in countries where religious freedom is a protected right, are usually upset at the thought that there are people who have to deny their own beliefs in order to not be discriminated or violently acted against. 


 -A popular bumper sticker campaign, incorporating many religious symbols and promoting inter-religious cooperation.




What Works?


-Separation of Church and State has proved to be an effective measure to decrease the amount of violations on the right of religious freedoms commited in a country. For example, In Canada, 97% percent of all the 1042 cases of reported anti-semitic actions were non-violent and there were no reports of religious based murder. However, in Iran over 200 Baha'is have died in the past 30 years.  The difference is that Iran's laws are based in Islamic beliefs and deal with other religious 'minorities' accordingly, where as in Canada freedom for all religions is ensured in their constitution, and that freedom is generally upheld. (United States Department of State.)


-Education on Tolerance some people have suggested that tolorence educational programs could serve to decrease religious tensions between peoples of various creeds and holy texts. This suggestion arises from the fact that propaganda is generally used to dehumanize people of other religions in some of the countries that are major offenders on the subject of religious freedom. possibly leveling that 'bully pulpit propaganda' with a education on religious tolerance could decrease religious tensions.


-Religious 'Interfaith' councils, that can increase ties between the religions. Such organizations can be seen on a local level in the form of eccumenical Vacation Bible Schools, or local relgious leaders confrences. These organizations are a tool used to increase interaction between peoples in different religious houses. On a national level, such groups take the shape of organizations like 'Faithful America' a group which seeks to send a message of interfaith understanding and cooporation.




People interested in furthering their knowledge of the issue of religious freedom or ,who wish to help prevent violations of this right, may do well to check out some of these sites:

-'United Religions Initiative' http://www.uri.org/

-'United States Department of State' http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/index.htm


-'Faithful America' http://www.faithfulamerica.org/



(Sharlee, http://www.sharlee.com/religiousfreedom.htm)



Bansal, Preeta D. & Cormartie, Micheal. (May 2, 2008). USCIRF Names 11 Countries of Particular Concern, Keeps Vietnam on List. Retrieved from http://www.uscirf.gov/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2191


Tass, Itar. (February 23, 2008). Russian Human Rights Groups Present Annual Report On Religious Freedom. Retrieved from http://search.countrywatch.com/cw_searchdocument.aspx?DocNumParam=6


The United Nations. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Retrieved from http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml#a18


United States Department of State. 2008 Report on International Religious Freedom. Retrieved from http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2008/index.htm


Comments (1)

Kori Atwood said

at 10:52 am on Sep 25, 2009

Good Start. Make sure you are using citations in the text.

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