Aug 12, 2016
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Religious freedom is under attack today in many nations around the world, harming individuals and threatening the stability of societies worldwide. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) welcomes the attention given to this vital right in the U.S. State Department’s latest International Religious Freedom (IRF) Report, released on August 10. Covering 2015, the report comprehensively documents religious freedom violations in almost 200 countries, features the cases of thousands imprisoned because of their religion or belief, and highlights non-state actors’ egregious abuses. USCIRF is pleased to see that this year’s report gives additional attention to the pernicious consequences of blasphemy laws.
“About 74% of the world’s population are living in countries with serious restrictions on religious freedom, according to David Saperstein, the Ambassador-at-Large for Religious Freedom. This large number reinforces the importance of religious freedom and the task we have before us,” said USCIRF Chair Thomas Reese, S.J. “We at USCIRF applaud the State Department for the excellent work that went into this report and its efforts to encourage countries around the world to adopt policies that respect this fundamental right. The U.S. government can help ensure positive change. Let’s not miss this opportunity to strengthen our commitments with effective actions.”
The International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRFA) requires the State Department annually to issue an IRF Report and, based on that report, designate as “countries of particular concern” (CPCs) those governments that “engage in or tolerate” systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom and take action to encourage improvements in those countries. Earlier this year, the Department designated 10 nations as CPCs under IRFA: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. USCIRF agrees with these designations, and recommends that the State Department:
USCIRF also welcomes the increased attention this year’s IRF Report gives to violations non-state actors have committed, which pose some of the greatest threats to religious freedom in today’s world. Now Congress needs to do its part by expanding the CPC classification to allow for the naming of non-state actors perpetrating systematic, egregious, and ongoing violations.
For more information, including on countries noted here and other countries USCIRF has recommended to be designated as CPCs and Tier II nations, please see USCIRF’s 2016 Annual Report.
To interview a Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-786-0615