Report: Religious freedom ‘under serious and sustained assault’ globally


The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) published its annual report on Monday. The most startling finding: The number of CPC’s, “countries of particular concern,” nearly doubled since last year, from 9 to 17.

“By any measure,” the report’s introduction begins, “religious freedom abroad has been under serious and sustained assault since the release of our commission’s last Annual Report in 2015.”

The 276-page report describes more assaults against Christians, Yazidis and Muslims in Islamic State-occupied Syria and Iraq, acts of bigotry against Jews and Muslims in Europe and stepped up persecution of religious groups not approved by China’s Communist government, including Christians, Uighur Muslim and Tibetan Buddhist groups.

Here are a few interesting cases:

A Catholic mother of five was sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan, where more people are on death row or serving life sentences for taking the name of Islam in vain than in any other country.

Religious persecution in Central Africa Republic is something of an outlier in that it involves Christians targeting Muslims. The report says, “In Central African Republican Republic, a 2013 coup helped create the conditions for sectarian fighting between Christians and Muslims in which civilians were targeted based on their religious identity. As a result, 80 percent of CAR’s Muslim population has fled to neighboring countries, and 417 of the country’s 436 mosques were destroyed.”

And the situation for Jews in Europe has worsened. “For Jews, despite the increasing police protection in places where European Jews congregate, the rise in anti-Semitism has produced an exponential rise in Jewish emigration from Europe, with immigration to Israel from France increasing from less than 2,000 in 2012 to nearly 8,000 last year alone.”

Perhaps most prominently, the Islamic State’s violence against Christians and other religious minorities in Syria and Iraq continued. This persecution has been labeled “genocide” by several governmental bodies, including the U.S. State Department.

A CPC is defined as “a country whose government engages in or tolerates particularly severe violations of religious freedom that are systematic, ongoing and egregious.” Among the 17 countries that the USCIRF designated as CPCs, there are some of the usual suspects, including Burma, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan. But eight countries were added to the list this year, including Central Africa Republic, Egypt, Nigeria and Syria. The increase is partly a result of expanded designation criteria to include persecution by non-state actors, including transnational or local groups like the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq and Boko Haram in Nigeria.

The USCIRF was established by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998. It is an independent, bipartisan U.S. government advisory body, separate from the State Department, that monitors religious freedom globally and makes policy recommendations to the U.S. government. It is chaired by Princeton University professor Dr. Robert P. George.

Read the entire report here:


Daniel Allott is deputy commentary editor for the Washington Examiner