flagsWritten by Don Byrd

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom today issued its annual report on the state of religious freedom around the world. Its focus is on the destruction wrought by ISIL and Boko Haram. Since last year’s report, the Commission writes, “[h]umanitarian crises fueled by waves of terror, intimidation, and violence have engulfed an alarming number of countries.”

The report is a sobering reminder of the very real and horrifying persecution faced by religious adherents throughout much of the world, but particularly those targeted by those terrorist organizations.

Here is an excerpt from the report’s introduction:

By any measure, the horrors of the past year speak volumes about how and why religious freedom and the protection of the rights of vulnerable religious communities matter. Those responsible for the horrors have made the case better than anybody can.

And so it should come as no surprise that in the pages of this report, we have recommended that the United States designate all five of these nations – Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Central African Republic, and Burma – as “countries of particular concern,” or CPCs under the International Religious Freedom Act. We are identifying their governments as well as others as either perpetrating or tolerating some of the worse abuses of religious freedom in the world.

The Commission recommends the State Department keep all nine countries currently on its CPC (Countries of Particular Concern) list – Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. The Report further recommends adding eight other countries to this list of CPCs: Central African Republic, Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria, Tajikistan, and Vietnam.

Central African Republic is a new addition to the list of CPC recommendations this year. The Commission noted that, as in Iraq and Syria, the government there is “either non-existent or incapable of addressing violations committed by non-state actors.” In such a situation, the Report argues, the State Department should label the country a CPC.

Ten additional countries remained on the Commission’s list of Tier 2 countries (for “governments that engage in or tolerate violations that are serious”): Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Laos, Malaysia, Russia, and Turkey.

The bipartisan USCIF was created by Congress in 1998 to monitor international religious freedom concerns, and to provide policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress. You can read the Annual Report (pdf) here.