US lists 12 countries of particular concern’ for violating religious freedom

The United States has designated 12 countries, including China and Pakistan, as “countries of particular concern” for the current state of religious freedom in these countries.

Announcing this on Friday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that governments and non-state actors around the world harass, intimidate, imprison and even kill people based on their beliefs. .

In some instances, they stifle individuals’ freedom of religion or belief to exploit opportunities for political gain. These actions sow division, undermine economic security, and threaten political stability and peace. America will not stand by these abuses.

“Today, I am against Burma (Myanmar), the People’s Republic of China, Cuba, Eritrea, Iran, Nicaragua, the DPRK, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan as countries of particular concern under the International Religious to tolerate serious violations of religious freedom, specifically those included in the Freedom of Religion Act of 1998,” he said in a government statement on December 2.

Blinken placed Algeria, the Central African Republic, Comoros and Vietnam on a special watch list for engaging in or tolerating serious violations of religious freedom.

The US Secretary of State also named al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Houthis, ISIS-Greater Sahara, ISIS-West Africa, Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimeen, the Taliban and Wagner. groups based on their operations as “entities of special concern” in the Central African Republic.

“Our announcement of these designations is in keeping with our values and interests in protecting national security and advancing human rights around the world. Countries that effectively protect this and other human rights are more peaceful, stable, prosperous and more reliable partners of the United States, Blinken said.

Blinken said the US will continue to carefully monitor the status of freedom of religion or belief in every country around the world and advocate for those facing religious persecution or discrimination.

“We will regularly engage countries about their concerns regarding limits on freedom of religion or belief, regardless of where those countries are designated,” he said.

The United States, he said, welcomes the opportunity to meet with all governments to address laws and practices that do not meet international standards and commitments, and to outline concrete steps toward removal from these lists.

Meanwhile, before the State Department announced such an annual designation, it took massive lobbying efforts by groups such as the Indian American Muslim Council and the International Council for Religious Freedom to designate India as a country of concern. There was pressure from organizations like the American Commission.