U.S. Takes Action Against Global Violators of Religious Freedom

National Church of Nigeria in Abuja (Wikimedia Commons)

In a recent statement, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said, “Religious freedom is an undisputable right, and the foundation upon which our free American society prospers. Today, the United States—a nation founded by those fleeing religious persecution, as the recent Commission on Unalienable Rights report noted—has once again taken action to defend those who wish to exercise this essential freedom.”

Pompeo stated that the United States is designating Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, Nigeria, the DPRK, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan as Countries of Particular Concern under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, as amended, for engaging in or tolerating “systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom.”

The U.S. Department of State has rightly designated these countries as some of the world’s worst violators of religious freedom and human rights,” Dede Laugesen, executive director of Save the Persecuted Christians (STPC), a leading international human rights advocacy group that works on behalf of hundreds of millions of persecuted Christians worldwidesaid“Save the Persecuted Christians is especially gratified that Nigeria has finally moved up the scale from last year’s Special Watch List designation to the report’s highest level—a Country of Particular Concern—this year. STPC and our coalition partners have labored long and hard to expose religious-based violence in Nigeria, described as genocide by Greg Stanton of Genocide Watch and among the most horrific and pervasive in the world today.

“Our coalition will continue to press for India to join the list of bad actors next year. Religious minorities in India are daily harmed for their faith and persecution perpetrated by RSS Hindutva militants and encouraged by the closely related BJP party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” Laugesen said. “Considerations for trade and regional geopolitical tensions serve to muddy the waters on holding India accountable for appalling religious freedom violations.”

According to Pompeo’s statement, the United States is also placing the Comoros, Cuba, Nicaragua and Russia on a special watch list for governments that have engaged in or tolerated “severe violations of religious freedom.”

“Additionally, we are designating al-Shabaab, al-Qa’ida, Boko Haram, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Houthis, ISIS, ISIS-Greater Sahara, ISIS-West Africa, Jamaat Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin and the Taliban as entities of particular concern under the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act of 2016,” Pompeo said. “We have not renewed the prior Entity of Particular Concern designations for al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula and ISIS-Khorasan, due to the total loss of territory formerly controlled by these terrorist organizations. While these two groups no longer meet the statutory criteria for designation, we will not rest until we have fully eliminated the threat of religious freedom abuses by any violent extremist and terrorist groups.”

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SOURCE: Hamilton Strategies

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