President Trump is taking a stand against China, Pakistan, and other countries who routinely violate the religious freedoms of their citizens.
“On December 18, 2019, the Department of State re-designated Burma (Myanmar), China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan as countries of Particular Concern under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 for having engaged in or tolerated ‘systematic, ongoing, [and] egregious violations of religious freedom,'” the State Department said in a statement.
“We believe that everyone, everywhere, at all times, should have the right to live according to the dictates of their conscience. We will continue to challenge state and non-state entities that seek to infringe upon those fundamental rights and to ensure they are held to account for their actions,” the statement continued.
NDTV reports the latest designation is the latest in an ongoing effort by the Trump administration to protect religious freedom around the world:
In June this year, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had urged Pakistan to release over 40 people from the religious minority community, who have been serving jail term or facing execution on blasphemy charges in the country.
Releasing the annual report on the International Religious Freedom of the State Department for the year 2018, on Friday, Mr Pompeo stressed that Pakistan should do more to stop the abuse of blasphemy laws, especially after the release of Asia Bibi, who escaped a death sentence in a case that drew international scrutiny.
The Criminal Code of Muslim-majority Pakistan, punishes blasphemy, including allegations of insulting Islam, providing penalties ranging from a fine to death. Thousands of Balochs, Sindhis, Ahmadiyyas and minorities belonging to various minority groups in the country regularly face the risk of persecution and enforced disappearances at the hands of the Pakistani establishment.
In addition, the State Department had then added a special section on what US officials said is the “staggering scope of religious freedom abuses in Xinjiang” to the report on China.
NPR reported earlier this year that the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom released its annual report on 16 countries “that engaged in or tolerated egregious violations.”
USCIRF Commissioner Johnnie Moore told the outlet that the report came “at a time when religious freedom concerns, for lots of reasons, are getting more attention across the board.”
“It takes the strongest stance against China in the history of the USCIRF,” Moore continued.
According to Moore, the report took a stern stance against China—a routine religious freedom violator.
Here’s more from the report:
Russia continued a downward spiral of religious liberty, using the pretense of combating extremism to repress minorities. Authorities investigated 121 Jehovah’s Witnesses and imprisoned 23 members of the Christian domination, according to the commissioners. Some $90 million in church property was taken from the community.
Jarrod Lopes, spokesperson for Jehovah’s Witnesses at the New York world headquarters, tells NPR that troubles persist in Russia. “Since last April, there hasn’t been a month without a home raid — usually several each month,” he says. In February, the organization said agents stripped worshippers naked, doused them with water and shocked them with stun guns.
“As any reasonable person would imagine, it’s definitely not easy for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia to live each day not knowing what tomorrow will bring,” Lopes says. The group was outlawed in 2017.