USCIRF Reports Decline of Religious Freedom in 2017

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released its 2018 Annual Report April 25, documenting violations and progress in 2017 on religious freedom issues in 28 countries. The report includes recommendations to the U.S. Government.

USCIRF Annual Report for 2018
USCIRF Annual Report for 2018

“Sadly, religious freedom conditions deteriorated in many countries in 2017, often due to increasing authoritarianism or under the guise of countering terrorism,” said USCIRF Chairman Daniel Mark.

Mark did inject an optimistic note, stating that 20 years after the passage of the International Religious Freedom Act, “the importance of this foundational right is appreciated more now than ever, and egregious violations are less likely to go unnoticed.”

The 2018 report recommends 16 countries for “Countries of Particular Concern" (CPC): governments that engage in or tolerate systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom. Ten of the countries so recommended were designated as CPCs in December 2017—Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. The six others recommended for this designation are Central African Republic, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Syria, and Vietnam.

It also names 12 Tier 2 countries, those where the violations meet one or two, but not all three, of the elements required for classification as a CPC: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Cuba, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Laos, Malaysia, and Turkey.

The report also recommends the following “entities of particular concern,” or EPCs, a designation created by the 2016 Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act for non-state actors committing systematic, ongoing, egregious violations. These are non-sovereign entities that exercise significant political power and territorial control; operate outside the control of a sovereign government; and often employ violence in pursuit of their objectives. The USCIRF recommends three groups for designation as EPCs in 2018: the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria; the Taliban in Afghanistan; and al-Shabaab in Somalia.

“In its second year, the Trump Administration should build on stated commitments to elevate religious freedom as a priority in our foreign policy and national security strategy by vigorously implementing IRFA, the Frank Wolf Act, and the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act to pressure egregious violators,” said Mark.“USCIRF also urges the administration to prioritize seeking the release of religious prisoners of conscience abroad, and to work closely with international partners in efforts to promote freedom of religion or belief for all.”

The full USCIRF 2018 Annual Report is available online.

From its beginnings, the Church of Scientology has recognized that freedom of religion is a fundamental human right. In a world where conflicts are often traceable to intolerance of others’ religious beliefs and practices, the Church has, for more than 50 years, made the preservation of religious liberty an overriding concern.

The Church publishes this blog to help create a better understanding of the freedom of religion and belief and provide news on religious freedom and issues affecting this freedom around the world.

2018 Countries of Particular Concern Entities of Particular Concern (EPCs) United States Commission on International Religious Freedom USCIRF