"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."
So says the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948. But a voluminous report issued by the State Department last week demonstrates that those lofty principles continue to be widely dishonored. In some areas, the violations of religious liberty have increased, with a rise in sectarian violence, an increase in anti-Semitism and a proliferation of blasphemy laws that are used to suppress not only religious but political dissent.
The International Religious Freedom Report for 2012, which was released by Secretary of State John F. Kerry pursuant to a 1998 act of Congress, is unsparing in describing violations of religious freedom even in countries allied with the United States. For example, the report notes that Pakistan has been the scene of violence against Christians, Hindus and Shiite Muslims, and it accuses the government there of enacting intolerant laws. In Egypt, it says, there has been little accountability for perpetrators of religious violence. In Saudi Arabia, "the public practice of any religion other than Islam is prohibited, and the government enforced restrictions on religious freedom."