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Worst violators of religious freedom named by independent watchdog

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Zelda Caldwell - published on 04/29/19 - updated on 04/29/19

China was singled out for treatment of Uighr Muslims and repression of Christians.

A bipartisan watchdog on religious freedom released its list of the world’s worst violators of religious freedom on Monday, drawing particular attention to religious repression in China.

The 16 countries, named by the United States Commission on International Freedom (USCIRF) as “countries of particular concern” include Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Central African Republic, Nigeria, Russia, Syria, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

The independent, commission, which advises the President, Congress and the Secretary of State on religious freedom issues, defines a violators of religious freedom as countries which engage in or tolerate ““systematic, ongoing, egregious violations.”

“The freedom to believe as one’s conscience dictates is a fundamental human right and vital to the security, stability and economic vitality of any state or region,” said USCIRF Chair Tenzin Dorjee, in a press release.

China was singled out in the commission’s announcement for having detained over 800,000 Uighur Muslims.

“In the past year, we have seen severe violations of religious freedom mount around the globe, from the imprisonment of individuals charged with blasphemy in several countries to the internment of over one million Uighur Muslims in China.  We and others laboring in the realm of religious freedom must persevere in our efforts to make this right a reality for everyone, everywhere,” said Dorjee.

In its 20th annual report, the commission found that China had “effectively banned ‘unauthorized’ religious teachings.”

“The Chinese government continued to persecute all faiths in an effort to ‘sinicize’ religious belief, a campaign that attempts not only to diminish and erase the independent practice of religion, but also the cultural and linguistic heritage of religious and ethnic communities, particularly Tibetan Buddhists and Uighur Muslims,” read the report.

The report also noted that in spite of the Vatican’s agreement with China to allow the government a role in appointing news bishops, repression of underground Catholic Church increased during the latter half of 2018.

Among the recommendations listed in the report are targeted sanctions, visa restrictions, public diplomacy, and restrictions on the export of technology, and the funding and promotion of religious minorities.

In addition to the 16 countries named as the worst offenders, 12 countries were included on a Tier 2 list: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Cuba, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Laos, Malaysia and Turkey.

Religious Freedom
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