Washington -- In observance of August 9 as the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Chair Tony Perkins issued the following statement:
"As we consider the rich heritage of indigenous peoples around the world, we must remember that these communities are sometimes vulnerable to threats to their freedom of religion and belief, even as targets by their own governments. For instance, the Vietnamese government has installed monks affiliated with the Communist Party in Khmer Krom Buddhist temples to control the form of Buddhism practiced there. The Iraqi government has refused to return to Assyrian and Chaldean Christians land illegally expropriated following their displacement by ISIS. Russian authorities continue to kidnap, torture and imprison Crimean Tatar Muslims. And some governments refuse to officially recognize indigenous belief systems, making it difficult for these communities to practice their faiths.
Religion and belief are central to the traditions and ways of life of many indigenous communities around the world. This year's theme--indigenous languages--underscores how language is deeply embedded in the culture and heritage of a people, including the way they study and observe their beliefs. We call upon all governments to respect the right of indigenous peoples to choose their own religion and belief, and to respect the right of those communities to manage their religious affairs without government interference."
Information about the world's worst religious freedom violators and recommendations for U.S. policy can be found in USCIRF's 2019 Annual Report.