Washington D.C., Apr 26, 2018 / 09:45 am
Religious freedom conditions worsened across the globe in the past year, according to the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom’s 2018 report, released April 25.
Violations against religious freedom were particularly acute under authoritarian regimes in the Eastern Hemisphere. With the exception of Cuba, all of the 28 countries USCIRF designated as the worst perpetrators in 2017 lie east of the prime meridian.
The worst abuses against religious freedom included genocide, enslavement, rape, imprisonment, forced displacement, forced conversions, property destruction, and bans on religious education of children.
The commission recommended that 16 countries be recognized by the State Department as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC), a label that identifies foreign governments that engage in or tolerate “systemic, ongoing, and egregious” religious freedom violations. Receiving this designation from the State Department opens the door to consequences including trade and funding sanctions.
These 16 are the same countries that USCIRF recommended last year. The State Department went on to recognize 10 as CPCs in December 2017: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
However, the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom urges that religious freedom violations in Pakistan, Russia, Syria, Nigeria, Vietnam, and the Central African Republic were so severe that these countries also merit CPC designation.
Of these six unrecognized countries, USCIRF Chair Daniel Mark is particularly concerned about the state of religious freedom in Pakistan.
“What we have said for many years is that Pakistan is the worst country in the world that's not designated for CPC. Pakistan is a world leader in imprisonment and convictions, prosecutions for blasphemy and apostasy, and those sorts of things,” Mark told CNA.