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US issues first religious freedom report of Trump era

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The United States on Tuesday issued its first report on world religious freedom since President Donald Trump took office, and again targeted the Islamic State group’s campaign of “genocide.”

Trump ran for the White House on a pledge to halt all Muslim immigration to the United States, and he and his supporters have themselves been accused of fostering a climate of intolerance against certain communities.

But the State Department’s annual report, released by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, deals with freedom of religion in around 200 foreign jurisdictions — not the US homeland.

The 2016 report itself, which US diplomats have been mandated by Congress to prepare, is not much changed from that of the year before — a dry but detailed breakdown of the state of play across the world.

Tillerson has warned that under Trump, US foreign policy will refocus on the security and prosperity of the American people, with less of an emphasis in promoting democratic values for their own sake.

But in his preface to the “International Religious Freedom Report for 2016,” the former oil executive insists: “Religious freedom is a cherished American value and a universal human right.

“The United States promotes religious freedom as a moral imperative,” he wrote.

“As importantly, we promote religious freedom because countries that effectively safeguard this human right are more stable, economically vibrant, and peaceful,” he argued.

“The failure of governments to protect this right breeds instability, terrorism, and violence.”

The Islamic State, a jihadist force that declared a so-called “caliphate” in a now-shrinking pocket of territory in northern Iraq and eastern Syria, is the only group singled out in the preface.

As in the 2015 report, it is accused of “genocide against Yazidis, Christians and Shia Muslims in areas it controlled.”

The individual country reports go into more detail on the policies and practices of various states around the world, including the 10 listed by the US administration as “countries of particular concern,” including Saudi Arabia and China.


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