State Dept. Releases Report on Status of Religious Freedom in 199 Countries
“We pray for the strength and wisdom to achieve a better tomorrow — one where good people of all faiths can follow their hearts and worship according to their conscience.” Donald J. Trump
The Trump Administration’s first International Religious Freedom report paints a grim picture.
On August 15, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said conditions in many parts of the world remain “far from ideal” nearly 20 years after the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 required the U.S. government to report on this core freedom:
“Religious persecution and intolerance remain far too prevalent. Almost 80 percent of the global population live with restrictions on or hostilities to limit their freedom of religion. Where religious freedom is not protected, we know that instability, human rights abuses, and violent extremism have a greater opportunity to take root.”
The report explores the various forms and levels of persecution that ethnic and religious groups experience. The purpose of the report according to the legislation that created it is to, “[Stand] for liberty and with the persecuted; to use and implement appropriate tools in the United States foreign policy apparatus, including diplomatic, political, commercial, charitable, educational, and cultural channels; [and] to promote respect for religious freedom by all governments and peoples.”
The reports are similarly used by the Secretary in determining which countries to place on the “Special Watch List” for having engaged in or tolerated “severe violations of religious freedom,” as recently mandated by the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act of 2016.
One important topic covered in the report is the Islamic State’s genocide against Yezidis, Christians and other ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria.
It also covers each of the State Department’s designated Countries of Particular Concern (CPCs) — those deemed to commit systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom, including torture, degrading treatment or punishment, prolonged detention without charges, abduction or clandestine detention, or other flagrant denial of the right to life, liberty, or the security of persons. As of October 31, 2016, the current list of CPCs is China, Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar (Burma), North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
As advocates for religious freedom and people of faith who desire to help our brothers and sisters, reports such as this provide a launching pad for action. If you want to make a difference in the lives of those who are suffering persecution, you must be informed. We encourage you to choose a country or a region and read the relevant report(s). Once you are familiar with the state of religious persecution there, pray intentionally for that country.
Stand with the persecuted by using information in the 2016 International Religious Freedom report to help make a difference.
Christine Virgin, Online Editor
1. Access the 2016 International Religious Freedom report and choose at least one country or region to research.
2. Write letters or make calls to your senators and representative, asking them to prioritize the information in the report when making legislative decisions.
3. Pray daily for your country or region, and write letters to persecuted Christians through Open Doors USA.