The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), where I served briefly as Acting Director of Communications, has issued its 2015 annual report on religious liberty worldwide.
As noted by Knox Thames, USCIRF's Director of Policy and Research, "The Commission is an independent U.S. government advisory body separate from the State Department that monitors religious freedom worldwide and makes policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State and the Congress."
Individual country reports are available in English and in the national languages of each country. Thames comments that the Annual Report, released today, "documents religious freedom abuses and violations in 33 countries and makes county-specific policy recommendations for U.S. policy. This report covers the period of January 2014 through January 2015." He continues that the report:
- Recommends that the Secretary of State re-designate nine countries as "countries of particular concern," or CPCs, for egregious religious freedom violations: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan;
- Recommends that eight additional countries be designated as CPCs: Central African Republic, Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria, Tajikistan, and Vietnam;
- Urges increased U.S. government attention to 10 countries placed on USCIRF's Tier 2: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Laos, Malaysia, Russia, and Turkey; and
- Highlights concerns in Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Cyprus, Kyrgyzstan, and Sri Lanka.
In the Annual Report, USCIRF urges that the United States "support a referral by the UN Security Council to the International Criminal Court to investigate ISIL (sic) violations in Iraq and Syria against religious and ethnic minorities" and "that the State Department designate Central African Republic as a CPC. In addition to country chapters, the report provides overarching recommendations for U.S. foreign policy as it relates to the promotion of religious freedom internationally."
As the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees notes, "With nearly 900,000 people from the Central African Republic (CAR) forcibly displaced since the outbreak of violence in December 2013, the CAR crisis is quickly becoming the largest forgotten humanitarian crisis of our time. There are more than 460,000 CAR refugees in neighbouring (sic) countries and some 436,000 people are internally displaced. In the Central African Republic, a total of 2.7 million people are in need of humanitarian aid."
FRC has been a strong advocate for the persecuted church worldwide. Under the leadership of FRC President Tony Perkins, we played a leading role in the release last year of imprisoned Christian Mariam Ibrahim, and have held several webcasts on international religious liberty.
To find out about Christian ministries working to protect persecuted Christians and also meet the profound needs of people in places like the CAR, go to the ServantMatch site of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (of which FRC is a member) or the Catholic Charities website.