Report: Religious freedom under attack around the world
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has issued its annual report, and it contains very worrying information about the state of religious freedom in the world.
The report claims that faith groups are “under serious and sustained assault” in places like China, North Korea, and the Middle East and that the situation has worsened substantially.
“Regrettably, the situation is that things have not improved, and in some places things have gotten worse,” said Robert P. George, who chairs the bipartisan federal commission.
Mr. George added that there has been “a continued gap between rhetoric of the regime and the situation on the ground” in recent years. “While we welcome the rhetoric, rhetoric doesn’t really matter unless it’s accompanied by action,” he said.
The report itself faulted such usual suspects as North Korea, Iran, Sudanand Saudi Arabia, but departed from past years by leveling sharp criticism at some key U.S. allies and nations with whom the Obama administration has recently sought warmer relations.
The report called on the State Department to add eight nations to its existing list of “countries of particular concern,” which the commission defines as “countries whose governments either engage in or tolerate ‘particularly severe’ violations of religious freedom.”
There were already nine on the list — Myanmar, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The commission said Monday in its 2016 annual report that Egypt, Vietnam, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria and Tajikistan should be added.
Ten other nations — including Afghanistan, Cuba, India, Russia and Turkey — were listed as so-called “Tier 2” countries, where “violations engaged in or tolerated by the government are serious.”
USCIRF, which has provided annual policy recommendations to the White House, State Department and Congress since its inception in 1998, also highlighted the “horrific global refugee crisis,” with “religion being a factor in humanitarian crises worldwide that have forced millions to flee.”
In a conference call with reporters, Mr. George said American officials should be doing more to make the protection of religious freedom a focal point of dealing with the refugee crises.
While he took care not to directly criticize the Obama administration’s handling of the situation, Mr. George, a professor at Princeton University, said that “the right to religious freedom deserves a prominent seat at the table.”
Egypt is one of those nations whose rhetoric about religious freedom sounds sweet to the ears, but where reality for Coptic Christians is a nightmare. Police look the other way as Coptic clergy are murdered and churches burned.
China has been on a church-closing rampage. They recently tore down 400 crosses in a bid to drive Christians underground.
Of course, the focus of religious intolerance is the Islamic State. The muted response by the West to the savage attacks on non-Muslims is shameful and must change.
The State Department should take the advice of the commission and expand the list of “countries of particular concern,” shining a light on these nations that persecute Christians and others.