Statement at the Launch Event: Group of Friends of Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief

Ambassador Cherith Norman Chalet
Acting Deputy Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
July 30, 2020


Thank you so much, Excellencies,

The United States welcomes Poland’s initiative to launch the Group of Friends of Victims of Acts of Violence based on Religion or Belief. We are proud to be one of the Group’s founding members.

Promoting freedom of religion or belief is a foremost priority for the United States. As many of you will recall, during the 74th session of the UN General Assembly’s High Level Week, President Trump hosted a Global Call to Protect Religious Freedom, at which he said: “Today, with one clear voice, the United States of America calls upon the nations of the world to end religious persecution, to stop the crimes against people of faith, release prisoners of conscience, repeal laws restricting freedom of religion and belief, protect the vulnerable, the defenseless, and the oppressed.”

At the same event, Secretary-General Guterres underscored, “The best way to promote international religious freedom is by uniting our voices for good, countering messages of hate with messages of peace, embracing diversity and protecting human rights everywhere.” We look forward to advancing these important goals through this new Group of Friends, and also through the International Religious Freedom Alliance. We are very pleased to see many active members of the Alliance here today with us.

Now more than ever, as others have just said, as we continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, we must commit to upholding and protecting human rights, with particular attention to challenges facing members of religious minority communities around the world. Governments must ensure that every individual, regardless of faith or belief, has access to relevant information, medical care, and social services. Governments must also ensure that emergency measures implemented to address COVID-19 are not used as an excuse to silence, target, or harass members of civil society, opposition voices, or members of marginalized communities.

Unfortunately, too many governments continue to commit acts of violence against their own people on the basis of religion or belief. The United States remains deeply concerned about the People’s Republic of China’s escalating and widespread restrictions on religious freedom. We urge the PRC government to respect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of everyone, including Uyghurs and other Muslims; Tibetan Buddhists; Falun Gong practitioners; Catholics, and Protestant.

We are also deeply concerned by acts of violence against members of religious minority communities in Burma, where Rohingya Muslims in northern Rakhine State have been subject to ethnic cleansing and devastating human rights abuses. We are further troubled by the escalating violence between the Burmese military and the Arakan Army in Rakhine and Chin States, and its impact on local communities. We are also concerned by widespread reports of human rights violations committed by the Burmese military in Kachin and Shan States affecting Christians and other minority groups.

The international community must stand together in calling for the equitable treatment of all regardless of religion or ethnicity, and in urging governments to hold accountable perpetrators of abuses, to provide unhindered humanitarian access to all in need, and to ensure equal protection for all.

In closing, I would like to reiterate our appreciation to Poland for launching this Group of Friends, and we stand ready to support the Group’s efforts to advance freedom of religion or belief around the world.

Thank you very much.