Posts tagged with: United States Commission on International Religious Freedom

USCIRF-2016“By any measure, religious freedom abroad has been under serious and sustained assault since the release of our commission’s last Annual Report in 2015,” says the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). “From the plight of new and longstanding prisoners of conscience, to the dramatic rise in the numbers of refugees and internally displaced persons, to the continued acts of bigotry against Jews and Muslims in Europe, and to the other abuses detailed in this report, there was no shortage of attendant suffering worldwide.”

In the USIRF’s 2016 report, which the State Department released earlier today, the commission notes that the incarceration of prisoners of conscience “remains astonishingly widespread, occurring in country after country, and underscores the impact of the laws and policies that led to their imprisonment.”

The report highlights numerous examples of state-sponsored persecution of Christians, such as that occurring in the East African country of Eritrea:
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cpcIn 1998, the U.S. took an important step in promoting religious freedom as a foreign policy objective with the passage of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRF Act). Designed to “strengthen United States advocacy on behalf of, individuals persecuted in foreign countries on account of religion,” the law authorized “actions in response to violations of religious freedom in foreign countries.”

The act also requires that that Secretary of State identify “countries of particular concern,” a designation reserved for nation’s guilty of particularly severe violations of religious freedom. The classification is used for countries that have committed “particularly severe violations of religious freedom,” including violations such as:
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The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has issued its 2015 annual report on religious liberty around the world. In their report, the USCIRF documents religious freedom abuses and violations in 33 countries and makes county-specific policy recommendations for U.S. policy. One country worthy of particular attentions is Afghanistan.

religiousfreedomreport2015For the past nine years USCIRF has designated Afghanistan as a country of particular concern, a country where the violations engaged in or tolerated by the government are serious and are characterized by at least one of the elements of the “systematic, ongoing, and egregious” standard. As the report notes,

Afghanistan’s legal system remains deeply flawed, as the constitution explicitly fails to protect the individual right to freedom of religion or belief, and it and other laws have been applied in ways that violate international human rights standards.

Notice that the country has been on the list since two years after the adoption of their new constitution—a constitution that the U.S. helped to create.

In 2004, after U.S. military and allied forces overthrew the Taliban, American diplomats helped draft a new Afghani constitution. Many people around the world were hoping the result would be similar to the constitution of Turkey—or at least be distinguishable from the constitution of Iran. Instead, what was created—with the help of the U.S. government—was an Islamic Republic, a state in which “no law can be contrary to the sacred religion of Islam.”

While the White House issued a statement calling it an “important milestone in Afghanistan’s political development,” the USCIRF had the courage to admit what we were creating: Taliban-lite.
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The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom’s Annual Report has been published. The commission places countries in three “tiers”, with tier one being nations that are designated “countries of particular concern” in terms of religious freedom. In this year’s report, these nations include China, North Korea and Saudi Arabia, among twelve others.saudi-arabia2

In China for instance, the report notes the following:

The Chinese government continues to perpetrate particularly severe violations of the freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief. Religious groups and individuals considered to threaten national security or social harmony, or whose practices are deemed beyond the vague legal definition of “normal religious activities,” are illegal and face severe restrictions, harassment, detention, imprisonment, and other abuses. Religious freedom conditions for Tibetan Buddhists and Uighur Muslims remain particularly acute, as the government broadened its efforts to discredit and imprison religious leaders, control the selection of clergy, ban certain religious gatherings, and control the distribution of religious literature by members of these groups. The government also detained over a thousand unregistered Protestants in the past year, closed “illegal” meeting points, and prohibited public worship activities. Unregistered Catholic clergy remain in detention or disappeared.

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