US State Department Praises Belize’s Religious Freedom Efforts
Belize has also received positive reviews from the US State Department in its 2022 International Religious Freedom Report. The annual article describes the status of religious freedom in every country and highlighted the Belizean government’s decision to establish a ministry dedicated to dialogue with the Religious communities. In the report, there were no instances of discrimination against any religious groups by the government. Minister of Religious Affairs, Henry Charles Usher, says the positive remarks speak to the government’s effort to respect the rights of all Belizean despite ethnicity, sex, race, or religious belief.
Henry Charles Usher, Minister, Constitutional and Political Reform: “You know we’ve always been a very inclusive, open religious tolerant country and that’s proud, that’s something we should be proud of. We are welcoming in terms of different beliefs, Christian and non Christian beliefs so I think it’s very important for us to be acknowledged by the US State Department in this report. When it comes to the portfolio of the religious affairs I think it’s something that – and I’ve discussed this before but really what we wanted to achieve or what the prime minister and I spoke about when we spoke about this particular portfolio was to have an opportunity for the different religious entities, the Council of Churches, the different non Christian entities as well to be able to have a dialogue with government, to be able to discuss freely issues that may affect them and vice versa when there is an issue that we would want to pass on to the different church entities I think that it’s an opportunity to have it through one ministry, to have one channel. In the past if it was an education issue they would have to go to Ministry of Education, if it was a land issue Ministry of Lands, if it was you know a road issue or something like that Ministry of Infrastructure Development. Now having one ministry in which the churches can come to I think it has made the services being provided to them, the dialogue between them and the government it has become better so that was really what the thrust of that particular portfolio was all about. But it’s also an area now with the NPO bill it’s something we have to look at with the church to see how we can assist them in becoming compliant with the different regulations. I think in the past a lot of the church accounting was probably done in an old book form or something we have to modernize it somewhat. We have to help them, we have to give them the capacity building so that they are able to be compliant with the different regulations and don’t wanna foul of this legislation.”
The report examined Belize’s religious demography, legal framework, government practices, and the status of societal respect for religious freedom as well as the U.S. government policy and engagement.