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USCIRF Commissioner Eric P. Schwartz testified on Wednesday, March 26 before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission during a hearing entitled, The Persecution of Religious and Indigenous Communities in Vietnam.

From the testimony: “The Vietnamese government exerts control over religious activities through law and administrative oversight, severely restricts independent religious practice, and represses individuals and religious groups it views as challenging its authority. The government also continues to imprison individuals for religious activity or advocacy on behalf of religious freedom.”

Click here to find out more information about the hearing.

Click here to view the... Read More

The Russian government’s actions reflect a policy of “state favored religions” that favors the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church (MPROC) over other religious communities, including the other traditional faiths. For example, the MPROC has made agreements with some government ministries, such as the Ministry of Education, to only offer the Orthodox culture module in their schools. Outside of MPROC schools, Russian school students may select one of six modules on Secular Ethics, Foundations of World Religious Cultures, and Foundations of Orthodox, Islamic, Jewish or Buddhist Culture. Secular Ethics is the most popular selection throughout Russia.

The MPROC receives the bulk of the state’s support for religious communities including subsidies for construction of churches, although other so-called “traditional” religious communities also sometimes benefit. Yet, government officials have obstructed the construction or rental of buildings for worship of other... Read More

12/16/13: ...On Asylum

In 1996, Congress created and passed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act , or IIRIRA.

Part of this bill included the Expedited Removal Process which recognizes that the United States has a “moral, humanitarian and international legal obligation to provide protection for individuals fleeing religious and other forms of persecution.”

Just last week, USCIRF submitted this statement to the House Judiciary Committee hearing on the U.S. asylum process.

For more information, view USCIRF’s Special Report: Assessing the U.S. Government’s Detention of Asylum seekers here .

On December 10, 1948, 48 nations in the UN General Assembly adopted a remarkable document that is as relevant today as it was then: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). View USCIRF's Human Rights Day op-ed here .

This week on December 10, 2013 USCIRF Commissioner Zuhdi Jasser  testified before a House Foreign Affairs joint subcommittee hearing  on human rights abuses in Egypt. Read the testimony on human rights abuses in Egypt here .

Find out more about the current status human rights, particularly religious freedom,... Read More

The Central African Republic (CAR) has a long history of political strife that frequently has led to coups and human rights abuses. Yet the current chaos and fighting following the March 2013 coup against former President Fran-coise Bozizé is uniquely dangerous, as it increasingly is centered around re-ligious identity and risks pulling the country into an intractable Muslim-Christian conflict. If these forces are not contained, severe human rights abuses are expected to be increasingly perpetrated along religious and ethnic lines.

To learn more about the current situation in the Central African Republic, see USCIRF's CAR Policy Brief here .

11/18/13: ...On Sudan

The Sudanese government’s imposition of Shari’ah countrywide in 1983, including on the predominantly animist and Christian South, significantly contributed to the onset of Sudan’s 20 year North-South civil war. Today, concerns about Shari’ah being central to a future constitution and the law remain.

To learn more about the role of shari'ah in Sudan's constitution and law, see USCIRF's Sudan Policy Brief here .

10/29/13: ...On Iraq

Against the backdrop of the worst sectarian violence in Iraq since 2008, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is in Washington for meetings this week. According to United Nations figures, more than 5,000 people have been violently killed in Iraq since April, including almost 1,000 in September alone.

To read about the religious freedom situation in Iraq, see USCIRF’s 2013 Annual Report Iraq chapter here .

As world leaders gather in New York this week for the new General Assembly session,they should be challenged to repealblasphemy laws, which violate international standards and UN resolutions.

View USCIRF's op-ed here.

9/16/13: ...On Egypt

View USCIRF's September 12 letter to President Obama urging him to "speak out clearly and forcefully about the unprecedented sectarian attacks committed against Christians in Egypt that proliferated at a frenetic pace on August 14 and the immediate days thereafter."

View full letter here.

...that since August 2011 Turkey has returned more than 300 previously-expropriated properties to the country’s religious minority communities? However, many more properties have not been returned.

Starting in 1936, the Turkish government expropriated properties from religious minority communities, including churches, schools, businesses, hospitals, orphanages, and cemeteries. These property expropriations, especially of churches and schools, seriously limited religious minority communities’ ability to enjoy religious freedom.

In August 2011, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced a revised process for the restitution of expropriated properties to minority religious communities. In comparison to previous attempts to return property, religious minority communities initially viewed the government’s latest attempt more positively. The government no longer requires the religious minority community to present a title or deed, which many did... Read More