Global Religious Freedom


The human right of religious freedom is one of the most widely curtailed in the world today.  Its curtailment could mean that religious minorities or dissenters within a tradition are jailed, tortured, or even killed for practicing their religion.  Millions of other religious believers live in fear that these same fates await them.  The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life estimates that 76% of the world’s population lives under regimes that strongly restrict religious freedom.  The violation of religious freedom takes place under a wide variety of regimes in diverse geographic locales and religious settings. 

What factors contribute to the violation of religious freedom?  What factors favor the development of religious freedom in countries that lack it?  How can religious communities respond to persecution so as to protect and secure their faith? How can an international consensus on religious freedom be built among diverse cultures, including secular ones?  These are the kinds of questions that the Center’s research agenda in global religious freedom will pursue.

Such a research agenda squarely reflects Notre Dame’s Catholic mission.  Almost 50 years ago, the Church proclaimed religious liberty as a natural human right in its landmark declaration, Dignitatis Humanae.  The religious freedom of all human beings is inviolable due to their being created in the image of God.  In November 2013, Cardinal Timothy Dolan commended global religious freedom to his fellow bishops as an urgent issue for the Church to pursue.  It is a call to which the Center responds.