Thursday, April 27, 2017

USCIRF Issues 2017 Annual Report

Yesterday the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom released its 2017 Annual Report (full text).  The report reviews religious freedom concerns in numerous countries and includes recommendations to the State Department for designation under the International Religious Freedom Act of 16 countries as "countries of particular concern"-- i.e. the most egregious violators of religious freedom.  Those countries are: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan-- all already designated by the State Department-- as well as Central African Republic, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Syria, and Vietnam.  The Report explains:
USCIRF’s 2017 CPC recommendations include, for the first time, the recommendation that Russia be designated as a CPC. Based on improvements in religious freedom conditions in Egypt and Iraq, USCIRF does not recommend those two countries for CPC designation in 2017, as it had for Egypt since 2011 and for Iraq since 2008.
The addition of Russia stems in part from its use of its anti-extremism law to restrict religious liberty, most recently of Jehovah's Witnesses. The report also places 12 countries on its Tier 2 list of nations where serious religious freedom concerns exist.  This year's Report begins with this grim introduction:
The state of affairs for international religious freedom is worsening in both the depth and breadth of violations. The blatant assaults have become so frightening—attempted genocide, the slaughter of innocents, and wholesale destruction of places of worship—that less egregious abuses go unnoticed or at least unappreciated. Many observers have become numb to violations of the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.