WASHINGTON (RNS) Religious freedom remains under “serious and sustained assault” around the globe, according to a new annual report from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
“At best, in most of the countries we cover, religious freedom conditions have failed to improve,” commission chairman Robert P. George said Monday (May 2). “At worst, they have spiraled further downward.”
The independent government advisory body recommended that the State Department add the Central African Republic, Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria and Vietnam to the U.S. government’s list of the world’s worst abusers of human rights and religious freedom. Of the 17 countries USCIRF says are of “particular concern,” only 10 have been recognized by the State Department.
The official list remained unchanged for nearly a decade, until last month’s rare addition of Tajikistan, a Sunni-majority country where a severely restrictive 2009 law allows the government to crack down on all independent religious activity, particularly that of Muslims, Protestants and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Officials there use concerns of extremism to justify monitoring and suppressing acts of worship: in the past year, police there have forced thousands of women to remove their headscarves and detained hundreds of thousands of bearded men.
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