Religious freedom around the world has been “under serious and sustained assault” in the past year, according to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) annual report.
USCIRF released its 2016 report earlier this month detailing the state of religious freedom around the world and calling out eight countries where particular severe violations of religious freedom are occurring. Central African Republic, Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria, Tajikistan, and Vietnam were all added to the Commission’s list of “countries of particular concern” (CPCs), while China, Iran, North Korea and Sudan were among nine countries that were redesignated as CPCs.
USCIRF, an independent, bipartisan, federal commission created by Congress in 1998, monitors religious freedom abroad using its statutory mandate and international human rights norms, and makes recommendations to the President and Congress every year.
Commenting on the report’s finding, Robert P. George, the chair of the Commission, stated that, “Regrettably, the situation is that things have not improved, and in some places things have gotten worse.”
Our international affiliates around the globe know this reality first hand. Our affiliates in Africa, the Middle East and across Europe are on the ground fighting religious persecution everyday. They are standing up against the slaughter of Christians and religious minorities by ISIS. They are fighting for the lives of Pakistani Christians who are facing the death penalty due to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. They are demanding religious liberty for Christians who are facing persecution at the hands of oppressive regimes and radical Islamists.
Through our international work, we have come to understand just how important it is for the United States to be committed to religious freedom and to take the lead in demanding that all people of faith be protected from religious persecution.
In their report this year, USCIRF echoed our call for U.S. involvement in global religious persecution, and made several recommendations directly to the State Department. In their report, the Commission urged State to deny entry into the United States to any foreign officials who are responsible for religious persecution abroad. Additionally, they encouraged the State Department to announce a policy that would deny entry to any individual who participate in inciting violence against religious people.
USCIRF also made a number of recommendations to Congress, urging them to “expand the CPC classification to allow for the designation of countries where particularly severe violations of religious freedom are occurring but a government does not exist or does not control its territory.” Additionally, USCIRF is urging Congress to “expand the CPC classification to allow the naming of non-state actors who are perpetrating particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”
When ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow testified on Capitol Hill alongside the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, he made this same recommendation to Congress. He stated that the U.S. must do more to comprehensively fight ISIS genocide against Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East.
In the coming weeks, the ACLJ is going to provide our exclusive analysis on this 2016 USCIRF report in addition to breaking down what our global affiliates around the world are doing to stand up for the persecuted and international religious freedom.
In light of the information revealed by USCIRF and the atrocities our affiliates are witnessing on the ground, we must all take to our knees in prayer for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are currently facing some of the most intense persecution we have seen in modern times. And we must also stand together and raise their plight to our elected officials and world leaders, demanding that freedom of religion be a reality for all people.
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