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(RNS) The State Department issued its annual human rights report Thursday (March 11), noting religious freedom violations in countries ranging from China to Iraq to Saudi Arabia.
The report on 194 countries called 2009 “a year in which ethnic, racial, and religious tensions led to violent conflicts and serious human rights violations.”
The State Department said “no genuine freedom of religion” exists in North Korea and Cuban law permits punishment of “any unauthorized assembly of more than three persons, including those for private religious services in private homes.”
The report said religious minorities continue to face “escalating discrimination and persecution.” In Iraq, for example, despite the government’s public calls for tolerance, attacks on places of worship by extremist and insurgent groups limited their ability to practice their faith.
In China, repression of Tibetan Buddhists and Muslim Uighurs increased, the report said. Non-Muslims are prohibited from expressing their religion publicly in Saudi Arabia.
The department noted that several countries with “generally strong”
human rights records had been home to religious freedom violations in 2009, citing the recent ban on construction of minarets in Switzerland as an example.
“Discrimination against Muslims in Europe has been an increasing concern,” the report said.
— Adelle M. Banks
Copyright 2010 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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