The 2023 International Religious Freedom Awards ceremony at the Department of State in Washington, D.C., January 18, 2024. ( Photo:Official State Department/Freddie Everett)

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Washington, D.C. – The US International Religious Freedom Award presented to seven individuals, in recognition of their courage and commitment to promoting and defending religious freedom around the world. One of them is Tibetan activist Lhadon Tethong of the Tibet Action Institute, for recognising the right to religious freedom of 6 million Tibetans who face extreme Chinese attacks on their religion, culture and identity.

The U.S. Department of State hosted the 2023 International Religious Freedom Awards ceremony at the Department of State in Washington, D.C., on January 18, 2024. The State Department's International Religious Freedom Awards honoured seven individuals in recognition of their courage and commitment to promoting and defending religious freedom around the world. Rashad Hussain, US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom presented the International Religious Freedom Award to Tibetan activist Lhadon Tethong, Director of the Tibetan Action Institute, at the ceremony.

The State Department said, "These advocates have focused on promoting human rights and mutual respect for all in countries including Nigeria, Iraq, Pakistan, New Zealand, South Africa, and Nicaragua, as well as protecting the rights of Orthodox Christians, Tibetan Buddhists, and members of other religious communities around the world."

State Department stated, "Lhadon Tethong is the Co-Founder and Director of the Tibet Action Institute (TAI). She leads a team of technologists and human rights advocates in developing and advancing open-source communication technologies, nonviolent strategies, and innovative training programs for Tibetans and members of other groups facing repression by the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Tethong and TAI’s work has shed light on how the PRC interferes with the right to freedom of religion or belief of Tibetan Buddhists."

"Recently, she presented recommendations for the PRC at the Universal Periodic Review 45 Pre-Session on behalf of many Tibetan civil society organizations, including religious freedom specific recommendations. Additionally, TAI has under Tethong’s leadership promoted respect for the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Tibetans and strengthened Tibetan-led civil society groups with shared aims," the statement added.

These awards are part of the Department’s events commemorating 25 years of the International Religious Freedom Act, which was signed by President Clinton on October 27, 1998.

The Tibet Action Institute stated, "Tibet Action Director and Co-founder Lhadon Tethong received the International Religious Freedom Award, recognizing the right to religious freedom for 6 million Tibetans as they endure China’s extreme attack on their religion, culture and identity. With 1 million Tibetan children aged 3+ in colonial boarding schools, kids are cut off from their language, religion, culture, and community. Now parents can’t teach religion or take children to the monastery on winter break. House searches and bans on language programs enforce this."

"For generations, Tibetans’ strength to resist occupation has been anchored in their Buddhist faith. China is trying to eliminate this, but we will not let this happen. We will continue building int’l pressure to stop China’s violations & support Tibetans’ enduring resistance," Tibet Action Institute mentioned.