Religious Freedom Report and its Impact on Religious Freedom

Washington, D.C.... Reacting to the newly released report by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, Joe Grieboski, president of the Institute on Religion and Public Policy, called for non-governmental organizations and government representatives to make religious freedom a priority. In a May 15 meeting, organized by the institute, Grieboski pointed out that the meeting was "to provide a review of the Commission's report, to give the public and media a clear understanding of the statements released and what it can be used for.

"While some foreign countries like China and France may be offended by the report, it's necessary for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and government representatives to continue to press for religious freedom in many countries around the world."

In the Commission's 2002 report, 22 countries were categorized as Countries of Primary concern (CPCs), such as Afghanistan, Burma, Egypt, India, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Nigeria, Russia, Vietnam, Turkmenistan and several others.

Also in attendance was Dr. John Graz, secretary general of the International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA), who gave a brief report on religious freedom situations in Turkmenistan, Indonesia, Vietnam and Egypt. Making reference to the Annual Report, Graz said that "the long term credit of the Annual Report will be its influence on U.S. foreign policy and the role it will play in relations with countries like China, Turkmenistan, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan."

Graz, who also served as a panel speaker, emphasized the importance of the U.S. Commission in providing and making recommendations to government and legislators. "The report is a significant tool to improve religious freedom for all," Graz added. Members of the panel included Tom Farr, director from the Office of International Religious Freedom, U.S. Department of State; Michael Horowitz, Senior Fellow and Director, Project for International Religious Liberty, Hudson Institute; Tad Stanhnke, U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, Joseph Grieboski from the Institute of Religion and Public Policy; and Knox Thames, Counsel, Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Created by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, provides independent recommendations to the executive branch and the Congress. Its Annual Report impacts U.S. bilateral relations with various countries. The Institute on Religion and Public Policy, founded as a think tank and advocacy organization, seeks to shape the public participation in policy of the American community of faith, and works very closely with other NGOs like the IRLA and government representatives. [Viola Hughes]