Pakistan Muslim Mob Destroys Minority Hindu Temple
Police in northwestern Pakistan say an angry mob Wednesday led by local Islamist clerics vandalized and set on fire a Hindu temple. The attack took place in district Karak of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Witnesses said area police dispersed the crowd of about 1,000 people, but not before they demolished the minority community’s worship place. A post-attack video clip circulating on social media showed the large group of people assaulting and tearing down the walls of the Hindu temple.
Gunmen Kidnap, Execute 11 Miners in Pakistan
Authorities in southwestern Pakistan said Sunday that unknown gunmen had kidnapped and killed 11 coal mine workers. A post-attack mobile video VOA received showed the slain workers were blindfolded with their hands tied behind their backs. The victims were said to be members of the minority Hazara Shi’ite community, which has come under attack from extremists in the past. Islamic State said its Pakistan branch executed the ethnic Hazara men. The Islamic State group has targeted Shi’ite Muslims, their shrines and places of worship in countries where the terror organization has its loyalists. Additionally, Islamic State militants in recent months have carried out major attacks against the Hazara community in Afghanistan, killing scores of people.
Suspected Islamists kill dozens in attacks on two Niger villages
Suspected Islamist militants have attacked two villages in Niger, with reports of dozens of civilians killed. Around 49 died and 17 were injured in the village of Tchombangou, while another 30 died in Zaroumdareye - both near Niger's western border with Mali, Reuters reports. There have been several recent violent incidents in Africa's Sahel region, carried out by militant groups.
Senator James Lankford How Global Blasphemy Laws Mobilize Violence Against Religious Communities
"There are still 84 countries in the world that enforce or uphold and apostasy laws."
USCIRF Welcomes the State Department’s Designation of Nigeria among World’s Worst Violators of Religious Freedom
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) praised the State Department’s announcement that it has named 10 “Countries of Particular Concern” (CPCs), including Nigeria for the first time, and placed four countries on its “Special Watch List” (SWL) for severe violations, pursuant to the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA). “We are gratified that the State Department has named 10 countries as CPCs. We particularly welcome Nigeria’s designation for the first time as a CPC for tolerating egregious violations of religious freedom, which USCIRF had been recommending since 2009. Nigeria is the first secular democracy that has been named a CPC, which demonstrates that we must be vigilant that all forms of governments respect religious freedom,” said Chair Gayle Manchin.
USCIRF Releases Groundbreaking Report on the Enforcement of Blasphemy Laws Globally
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today released a new report entitled Violating Rights: Enforcing the World’s Blasphemy Laws. Eighty-four countries around the globe maintain laws that criminalize expression which insults or offends religious doctrines. This report examines and compares the implementation of blasphemy laws between 2014 and 2018, identifying 732 total cases in 41 countries. “This report provides extensive data and illustrative examples to demonstrate the plethora of ways that governments’ enforcement of blasphemy laws undermines human rights, including freedom of religion or belief and freedom of expression,” said USCIRF Chair Gayle Manchin. “It is no coincidence that the top six countries with the highest number of blasphemy cases—Pakistan, Iran, Russia, India, Egypt, and Indonesia—are all countries that USCIRF identifies as among the world’s worst violators of religious freedom.”
USCIRF Releases Factsheet on Brunei
This factsheet highlights ongoing religious freedom issues in Brunei, primarily focusing on the Syariah Penal Code Order 2013, which came into effect on April 3, 2019. Although Brunei has had a dual legal system, one religious and one secular, the new penal code blurs the lines between the two. It enforces a hardline interpretation of Islamic law on all Muslims regardless of citizenship. In particular, the penal code increases criminal penalties for blasphemy and makes attending Friday prayers a legal obligation for Muslims. If this penal code is fully enforced in Brunei, it could lead to USCIRF recommending the country’s inclusion on the State Department’s Special Watch List or that the country be designated as a Country of Particular Concern for engaging in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.
USCIRF Releases New Report on Religious Freedom Conditions in Nigeria
This country update examines religious freedom conditions in Nigeria, which remained poor in 2020. Ongoing state violations include harsh convictions for blasphemy, and discrimination against religious minorities. Non-state actors have been responsible for abductions and executions of individuals based on their religious affiliation, as well as attacks on houses of worship and religious ceremonies. The report provides background demographic and political context, explores Nigeria’s legal framework as it pertains to religious freedom, highlights the impact of religiosity across the country, examines recent incidents of violations of religious freedom committed by state and nonstate actors, and concludes with recommendations for U.S. policy. In its 2020 Annual Report, USCIRF recommended that the U.S State Department designate Nigeria as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) for its ongoing, systematic, and egregious religious freedom violations. Earlier this month, the State Department designated Nigeria as a CPC for the first time ever.
USCIRF Condemns Boko Haram Attacks and Threats against Christians
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today condemned recent attacks by Boko Haram in Niger and northwest Nigeria, as well as threats by the group against Christians in the run up to the Christmas holiday. “Boko Haram continues to commit gross violations of religious freedom in the Lake Chad Basin,” said USCIRF Vice Chair Tony Perkins. “These atrocious acts and religiously motivated threats are nothing short of deplorable.” Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau claimed responsibility for a December 11 attack on an all-boys school in northwest Nigeria that has left over 300 students missing. The group also claimed responsibility for a December 12 attack in Niger that left 27 people dead. In a three-minute video sent to French news agency AFP, Boko Haram promised Christians more attacks ahead of Christmas.
USCIRF Releases New Report on Religious Freedom Conditions in Bahrain
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today released the following new report on religious freedom conditions in Bahrain: Bahrain Country Update – This country update examines religious freedom conditions in Bahrain. Throughout 2020, Bahrain continued to systematically restrict religious freedom for its Shi’a Muslim population. The government arrested Shi’a religious figures and imposed restrictions on the observance of the Ashura holiday beyond reasonable and lawful restrictions to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Shi’a prisoners in Bahrain also continued to be denied access to religious texts and had religious items confiscated despite a prison visit by the National Institute for Human Rights in August 2020.
USCIRF Troubled with the Relocation of Rohingya Refugees to Bhasan Char Island
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today expressed its concern over reports that Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are being forced to relocate from Cox’s Bazaar to the cyclone and flooding prone island of Bhasan Char. “We are concerned that many Rohingya refugees fleeing persecution in Burma are facing forced relocation to an area that is deemed unsafe by the United Nations,” stated USCIRF Vice Chair Anurima Bhargava. “The transfer of Rohingya refugees to Bhasan Char island must be based on a voluntary and informed decision, not a pressured or coerced initiative on behalf of the Bangladesh government.”
USCIRF Welcomes Enactment of the Tibet Policy and Support Act
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) commends President Donald J. Trump for signing the Tibetan Policy and Support Act (H.R.4331 / S.2539). This law establishes an official U.S. policy affirming the right of the Tibetan Buddhist community in selecting and venerating their own religious leaders, including the Dalai Lama. The law imposes sanctions on Chinese officials who interfere in the selection of a successor to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In addition, it requires the Secretary of State to seek to establish a consulate in Lhasa. “I commend President Trump for signing this important bill into law. It enacts a much-needed upgrade to existing U.S. policy on Tibet and sends a strong message to the Chinese Communist Party that it must respect the religious freedom of the Tibetan people, particularly the right of the Tibetan Buddhist community in the selection of a successor to His Holiness the Dalai Lama without government interference,” said USCIRF Commissioner Gary Bauer. “I also commend Senators Rubio and Cardin, Representatives McGovern and Smith, and all Members of Congress who supported this legislation. This coordinated, bipartisan effort demonstrates the U.S. government’s commitment and resolve to holding the Chinese government accountable for its egregious religious freedom violations against the Tibetan people.”
USCIRF Calls for Release of Ramy Kamel
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) again calls on the Egyptian government to immediately and unconditionally release Coptic activist Ramy Kamel, following news of his rapidly declining health and amid the threat of the spread of COVID-19 in Egypt’s prisons. USCIRF Commissioner Nadine Maenza said, “USCIRF implores the Egyptian government to immediately release Mr. Kamel and dismiss all charges against him, after more than a year of unjust pre-trial detention. His lifelong commitment to highlighting the Coptic Christian community’s struggle to attain full religious freedom and other rights as equal citizens of Egypt makes this situation even more troubling. The government should take this opportunity to show support for the Coptic community, including those who advocate on its behalf, by releasing Mr. Kamel."
Nuns arrested as Beijing turns up heat on Church in Hong Kong
And now the mission – and the Church as a whole in Hong Kong – is coming under mounting pressure as Beijing moves to extinguish opposition voices in the city under a new national security law. In May, two Chinese nuns who work at the mission were arrested by mainland authorities during a visit home to Hebei province, according to three Catholic clerics with knowledge of the matter. The nuns, in their 40s, were detained for three weeks before being released into house arrest without being charged. They are forbidden to leave the mainland, according to one of the clerics. Meanwhile, Western diplomats say, Chinese security agents have stepped up surveillance of the mission in recent months.
USCIRF Releases New Report about Countering Violent Extremism in Tajikistan
Issue Update—Promoting Religious Freedom and Countering Violent Extremism in Tajikistan—This update describes Tajikistan’s official campaign to control and restrict Islamic practice, ostensibly an effort to combat the spread of terrorism and violent extremism but, in reality, represents harsh and counterproductive religious freedom restrictions. Contemporary research on effectively countering violent extremism demonstrates that religious freedom and security are symbiotic rather than mutually exclusive. This report recommends that U.S. government engagement with Tajikistan reflect best practices by integrating religious freedom requirements into all security assistance.
‘Trump Is Better’: In Asia, Pro-Democracy Forces Worry About Biden
New York Times
As President-elect Biden now assembles his foreign-policy team, prominent human rights activists across Asia are worried about his desire for the United States to hew again to international norms. They believe that Mr. Biden, like former President Barack Obama, will pursue accommodation rather than confrontation in the face of China’s assertive moves. Mr. Trump’s popularity is particularly enduring among Christians, such as Chinese-born legal scholars chafing against Communism’s atheist core and ethnic minority activists in Southeast Asia. Mr. Pompeo and other Trump administration officials, they believe, have been fulfilling a faith-based mission overseas.
What Biden foreign policy picks mean for religious freedom
After President Obama promoted “the rights of gays and lesbians” during a 2015 trip to Kenya, Nigerian Cardinal John Onaiyekan of Abuja responded that “our Church has always said homosexuality is unnatural and marriage is between a man and a woman.” During the Trump administration, the U.S. also spoke out against abortion as an international human right at the United Nations General Assembly. As Biden has pledged to support legal abortion and overturn a ban on funding of foreign abortion promoters and providers, his administration might also promote legal abortion as part of diplomacy.
China drafts new rules cracking down on citizens' religious exchanges with foreigners
This week, China’s Ministry of Justice published a list of new restrictions on religious foreigners who are visiting or working in the communist country to prevent them from spreading so-called "religious extremism," or use religion "to undermine China's national or ethnic unity." The draft rules include a list of activities that foreigners are advised not to conduct within China, such as "interfering with or dominating the affairs of Chinese religious groups," advocating "extremist religious thoughts," using religion to conduct terrorist activities, or "interfering with the appointment or management of Chinese clergy members." Foreigners are also prohibited from “illegal preaching among Chinese citizens, converting new believers, accepting religious donations from Chinese citizens,” or “carrying out religious education and training.”
Christians in the Middle East need us
"The sand has nearly run out in the hourglass that is Christianity in Iraq," is how Stephen M. Rasche, vice chancellor of the Catholic University in Erbil, describes the situation in his book "The Disappearing People: The Tragic Fate of Christians in the Middle East." And although there is still time left, if we don't act now, the 2,000-year presence of Christians in the Middle East will come to an end on our watch.
Will religious liberty survive in Europe?
Northern Virginia Daily by Charles Mills
Anti-Catholics, atheists, anti-clericalists, humanists, and secularists have long wanted to force Poland and Hungary to adopt unwelcome secularist ideas, including abortion on demand and public pornography, or suffer economic sanctions and loss of representatives in the European Parliament. To inflict this persecution requires unanimity. Poland is prepared to veto any such sanctions against Hungary and Hungary to veto them against Poland. To break these two intransigent Christian nations, the Germans and other Western European countries proposed a seven-year budget that contained a repeal of the need for unanimity to “discipline” a member state.
Secy. Pompeo: China, Iran, North Korea Greatest Threats To Religious Freedom
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo named China, Iran and North Korea as the most dangerous opponents of freedom of religion around the world. One America’s Hans Hubbard reports.
USCIRF Condemns Egypt’s Detention of Mohamed Basheer, Ramy Kamel
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) strongly condemns the Egyptian government’s arrest of Mohamed Basheer, Administrative Manager of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), and urges his and Coptic activist Ramy Kamel’s unconditional and immediate release. USCIRF Vice Chair Tony Perkins said, “USCIRF calls on the Egyptian government to immediately release Mr. Basheer and Mr. Kamel from detention and dismiss all charges against them. While Egypt’s recent initiatives to promote interfaith tolerance, protect religious heritage sites, and legalize hundreds of churches deserve support and encouragement, we cannot stand idly by while it continues to harshly punish honorable advocates for religious freedom and broader human rights.”
USCIRF Releases New Report about Global Persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses
“The Global Persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses” Issue Update—This update describes official discrimination against Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world, with a particular focus on countries where members have been imprisoned for their beliefs. These include countries that USCIRF recommended in its 2020 Annual Report for designation as countries of particular concern, such as Eritrea, Russia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan; countries USCIRF recommended for the Special Watch List, including Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan; as well as South Korea and Singapore. The report also makes recommendations for U.S. policy.
Religious Liberty in Peril, in France and Elsewhere
National Review by Doug Bandow
Neither Macron’s rhetoric nor his government’s policies are beyond reproach, especially Paris’s historic attachment to extreme and coerced secularism. However, the ongoing controversy illustrates a severe problem within Islam. A significant strain of Islamic thought justifies brutal, even deadly treatment of non-Muslims — or, more precisely, non–Sunni Muslims. Groups such as the Islamic State and Boko Haram have cheerfully, even enthusiastically, slaughtered Shiites, Sufis, and Muslims deemed insufficiently supportive of the murder of Christians.
U.S. sends shot across bow of UN, WHO with multilateral, pro-life health declaration
In April this year, President Trump yanked hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. funding of the WHO, saying the agency had put "political correctness over lifesaving measures." In September this year, the President declared in a speech to the UN General Assembly, "My administration is advancing religious liberty … and protecting unborn children."
Religious Freedom in Algeria
Thursday, November 12, 2020 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM (EST) This special event will highlight recent and ongoing religious freedom concerns in Algeria, including the restriction and closure of Protestant churches, as well as the potential impact of recent political developments on religious freedom conditions in the country. These trends were reflected in USCIRF’s 2020 Annual Report which recommended that the U.S. Department of State include Algeria in its Special Watch List for engaging in or tolerating severe religious freedom violations. USCIRF Vice Chair Anurima Bhargava and Commissioner Johnnie Moore will host a conversation with guest panelists Jeff King of International Christian Concern (ICC), and Dalia Ghanem of the Carnegie Middle East Center. USCIRF Director of Outreach and Policy Dwight Bashir will moderate the conversation followed by questions and answers from attendees.
USCIRF Releases New Report about United Nations Human Rights Mechanisms
This factsheet provides an overview of the UN human rights mechanisms, with a particular focus on those most relevant to freedom of religion or belief. The factsheet describes the mandate and composition of the Human Rights Council and its subsidiaries, which include the Universal Periodic Review Working Group, the Special Procedures mandate holders, and factfinding missions. The UN treaty-based mechanisms, such as the Human Rights Committee established by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, are also explained. The factsheet includes examples of engagement with these mechanisms that has advanced religious freedom. Although these bodies have limitations, they nevertheless provide opportunities for advocacy by and collaboration among states and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working to promote freedom of religion or belief internationally.
Religious Freedom for All: Here’s how USAID is making this human right a priority
In June, President Trump signed the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act. This legislation allows the United States to take decisive measures against the Chinese Communist Party in response to its unacceptable treatment of the Uyghurs and other minority communities in Xinjiang. The U.S. Government is expanding its existing network to alert the world to this persecution and is calling on the Chinese Communist Party to immediately cease the oppression of its own citizens in Xinjiang. The horror stories from Christians and Yazidis in Iraq, Rohingya in Bangladesh and Burma, and other persecuted people throughout the world strengthen USAID’s resolve to support religious freedom and challenge religious discrimination.
USCIRF Troubled by Russia’s Ongoing Imprisonment of Jehovah’s Witness Dennis Christensen
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) condemns the recent decision by the Lgov District Court to again deny the parole of Dennis Christensen, a Jehovah’s Witness prisoner of conscience imprisoned in Russia. “USCIRF is appalled by Russia’s treatment of Dennis Christensen,” said USCIRF Chair Gayle Manchin, who advocates for Dennis Christensen through the Commission’s Religious Prisoner of Conscience project. “There is clearly an official vendetta against this poor man, who is guilty only of peacefully practicing his faith. Instead of showing mercy, the state is treating him like a dangerous criminal. This is an egregious miscarriage of justice.”
Int'l Religious Freedom Day: Religious freedom in the age of COVID-19
U.S. Dept. Health and Human Services
October 27, 2020, 1-2 PM EDT
A VIRTUAL EVENT OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
ROGER SEVERINO Director, Office for Civil Rights U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services
CLAIRE MURRAY Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General U.S. Dept. of Justice
SAMUEL BROWNBACK Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, U.S. Dept. of State
ANDREW BREMBERG Permanent Representative of the U.S. to the Office of the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva
KRISTINA ARRIAGA Former Vice Chair for U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and Executive Director for Becket Law
To view, go to:
Combatting Online Hate Speech and Disinformation Targeting Religious Communities
Wednesday, October 21, 2020 10:00 – 11:30 AM Virtual Hearing Please join the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) for a virtual hearing about how some governments use and enable others to use social media platforms to sow disinformation and hate speech that target religious communities and incite violence against them.
USCIRF Releases Factsheet on Rohingya Refugees in Southeast Asia
Rohingya Refugees Factsheet – This factsheet highlights the conditions of Rohingya refugees in Southeast Asia. While the majority of Rohingya refugees have fled from Burma to Bangladesh, a significant number have escaped to Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand. Some Rohingya refugees have managed to successfully settle in Southeast Asia, but others have faced discrimination or other religious freedom violations. During the COVID-19 pandemic, governments in the region have been less willing to admit boats with Rohingya refugees. This factsheet also explores the role of regional and international actors in addressing flows of refugees within Southeast Asia.
USCIRF Releases New Report about Attacks against Houses of Worship and Religious Leaders in Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso Factsheet– In the context of the upcoming presidential election in Burkina Faso scheduled for November 22, 2020, this factsheet details the drivers of and responses to attacks against religious institutions in Burkina Faso in recent years, including threats to houses of worship, religious ceremonies, and faith community leaders. Burkina Faso was long viewed as a bastion of religious tolerance and interfaith harmony in west Africa. Yet, in recent years religious freedom conditions in Burkina Faso have worsened, with the country facing interrelated security and humanitarian crises. Attacks on both Muslim and Christian houses of worship and religious leaders have spiked as jihadist and other militia groups have expanded their area of influence throughout the country. The government has struggled to rein in the violence and bring about accountability to perpetrators, and poor performance and misconduct by government affiliated forces are exacerbating the situation.
USCIRF Releases Factsheet on Rohingya Refugees in Southeast Asia
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released a new report on Rohingya refugees who have escaped persecution in Burma: Rohingya Refugees Factsheet – This factsheet highlights the conditions of Rohingya refugees in Southeast Asia. While the majority of Rohingya refugees have fled from Burma to Bangladesh, a significant number have escaped to Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand. Some Rohingya refugees have managed to successfully settle in Southeast Asia, but others have faced discrimination or other religious freedom violations. During the COVID-19 pandemic, governments in the region have been less willing to admit boats with Rohingya refugees. This factsheet also explores the role of regional and international actors in addressing flows of refugees within Southeast Asia.
Please join the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) for a virtual event about religious freedom conditions in Turkey. This special event will highlight recent and ongoing religious freedom concerns in Turkey, including the conversion of historic former churches such as the Hagia Sophia and Chora into mosques; governmental and societal targeting of religious minorities; and the ramifications of these developments and practices for religious minorities throughout the country.
USCIRF Releases Ritual Slaughter Factsheet Highlighting Range of Restrictions across Europe
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today released the following new report on ritual slaughter laws and the range of restrictions across Europe: Ritual Slaughter Factsheet – This factsheet shows the spectrum of restrictions on ritual slaughter in Europe, and provides information on the impact that such regulations have on religious freedom in select countries. Pursuant to international human rights law, religious freedom extends to the observance and practice of religion or beliefs, including dietary regulations. European Union laws and regulations require stunning before slaughter to protect this right, but countries are authorized to make their own regulations concerning “slaughtering in accordance with religious rituals.”
USCIRF Releases New Report about Religious Tensions and Fulani Communities in West and Central Africa
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today released the following new report on religious tensions and Fulani communities in west and central Africa: West and Central Africa Factsheet – This factsheet explores the role that religion plays in escalating violence committed by and against Fulani communities in west and central Africa. Predominantly Muslim and historically associated with cattle herding and livestock rearing, Fulani communities – one of the largest ethnic groups in the world – stretch across the African continent from Senegal to Sudan and have been both the victims and perpetrators of violence against civilians in many countries in recent years. Although the extent to which religious ideology contributes to driving this violence remains a subject of debate, the trend of increasing violence by and against Fulani groups is clearly aggravating religious tensions in countries such as Nigeria and the Central African Republic.
Vietnamese pastor released after 4 years imprisonment over religious freedom advocacy
On Sept. 18, USCIRF announced that A Dao, a pastor of the Montagnard Evangelical Church of Christ, had been released from prison. Dao was arrested in 2016 while on his way to visit some members of his church after attending a conference on religious freedom in East Timor. USCIRF Commissioner James W. Carr, who advocated for Dao’s release through USCIRF’s Religious Prisoners of Conscience Project, said he hopes the release is a “sign that the Vietnamese government is serious about improving religious freedom conditions and will release other individuals detained for their religious freedom advocacy.”
Ambassador Callista Gingrich: Trump administration defends international religious freedom
n September 2019, President Trump hosted the Global Call to Protect Religious Freedom at the United Nations and called upon both the international community and business leaders to work together to protect religious freedom around the world. And on June 2 this year the president signed the first-ever executive order to instruct the entire U.S. government to prioritize religious freedom. Under this order, the United States will allocate at least $50 million per year for foreign aid programs that advance international religious freedom. The Trump administration has also partnered with local and faith-based organizations to aid vulnerable religious minorities.
US ambassador issues religious freedom warning at UN event
In a review of the developments of global religious freedom in the past year, Ambassador Sam Brownback noted that the U.S. has “urged governments to make sure members of religious minority groups are not discriminated against during the pandemic,” whether through scapegoating of minority groups for the spread of the virus or unnecessary restrictions on their access to worship. He also stated his concern of the increased use of technology to restrict religious freedom.
Pompeo, in Rome, pushes criticism of religious freedom in China
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attacked China's record on religious freedom on Wednesday, during a visit to Rome that has been overshadowed by his criticism of the Vatican for pursuing closer ties with Beijing. "Nowhere is religious freedom under assault more than in China," Pompeo told a symposium hosted by the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See, saying the Chinese Communist Party was looking to "to snuff out the lamp of freedom ... on a horrifying scale".
USCIRF Welcomes House Passage of Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) welcomed the House of Representatives’ passage yesterday of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which bars imports of all goods mined, produced, or manufactured in Xinjiang, unless proven by clear and convincing evidence that the goods were not produced using forced labor. “We want to thank Representative Jim McGovern and Senator Marco Rubio for their leadership on this important legislation in Congress, as well as Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s strong floor statement and all the Members of the House who supported it,” USCIRF Commissioner Nury Turkel stated. “USCIRF urges the Senate to pass the companion bill swiftly and the President to sign it.”
USCIRF Welcomes Release of Pastor A Dao in Vietnam
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today welcomed the release of A Dao, a pastor of the Montagnard Evangelical Church of Christ. Vietnamese authorities had arrested him on August 18, 2016, after he returned to Vietnam from a conference about religious freedom in East Timor.
“I am delighted that Pastor A Dao is free, even as I lament the fact that prison robbed him of four years of his life,” USCIRF Commissioner James W. Carr stated. “I hope this release is a sign that the Vietnamese government is serious about improving religious freedom conditions and will release other individuals detained for their religious freedom advocacy, including Nguyen Bac Truyen. In addition, USCIRF urges the government to take steps to ensure that local authorities respect A Dao’s freedom and safety should he choose to return to his home village.”
Christians Under Attack in Ethiopia and Nigeria
John Stonestsreet and Shane Morris discuss the murders of hundreds of Christians in Ethiopia--one of the most ancient of all Christian lands--at the hands of militant Muslim youth, as well as the growing awareness of genocide against Christians in Africa's largest nation, Nigeria.
Benjamin Watson, Tulsi Gabbard and Frank Wolf on the Slaughter of Christians in Nigeria
Especially in northern Nigeria, Christians are under a sustained, brutal assault by two groups bent on their destruction: The Islamist terror group Boko Haram and Fulani militants motivated by a mixture of Islamist ideology and greed for land. On any given day, Christians are killed, raped, and kidnapped. For example, just last week, over 20 Christians were killed and over 60 abducted.
USCIRF Welcomes Import Ban against Xinjiang Firms
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today welcomed the decision by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to issue five new Withhold Release Orders (WRO) due to concerns about forced labor and religious freedom violations in the region aimed towards Uyghur and other Muslims. “This is an important step to keep goods that are produced using forced labor out of American markets,” USCIRF Commissioner Nury Turkel stated. “Thanks to U.S. leadership, Chinese companies now know that they cannot profit off the slavery of Uyghur Muslims.”
‘Unbearable Screams’: Uighurs Accuse China of Crimes Against Humanity
“I didn’t see, but I could hear the unbearable screams coming from both sides of the corridor,” said Mamattursun Omer, a Uighur whose account of being detained in Xinjiang is one of many that NBC News reported are included in the International Criminal Court complaint. “They should be punished for the crime they have done to us,” he told NBC. “It is my responsibility to give my testimony.” The complaint specifically claims that China enforced birth control, carried out mass surveillance, and committed massacres on the Uighur population inside the Xinjiang region. Both the NBA and Disney have had significant business interests in China, but have yet to condemn the government for mistreatment of Uighurs.
Rising Antisemitism in Europe Amid the Pandemic
Wednesday, September 23, 2020 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM ET Virtual Event In recent years, Europe has experienced alarming levels of antisemitism and outright violence against Jewish communities. Please join the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) for a virtual event that will provide a timely overview of current antisemitic attitudes and incidents in Europe, including new trends since the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic. The discussion will also focus on recommendations for U.S. policy to counter antisemitism. USCIRF Chair Gayle Manchin and Commissioner Gary Bauer will be joined by U.S. Deputy Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism David Peyman and Director of European Affairs at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Andrew Srulevitch for this discussion. This event will be moderated by USCIRF Director of Outreach and Policy Dwight Bashir and will include a Q&A for attendees.
USCIRF Releases New Policy Update Highlighting One Year of Progress Advancing Religious Freedom in Sudan
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today released the following new report: Sudan Policy Update: The Sudanese transitional government has made a number of significant religious freedom reforms during the past year. This policy update examines religious freedom conditions in Sudan after the 2019 revolution and the formation of the civilian-led transitional government. It highlights the historic progress, along with the ongoing challenges, in advancing religious freedom. In addition, it discusses improving bilateral relations between the United States and Sudan since the revolution and highlights USCIRF’s recommendations to the U.S. government given these developments.
USCIRF Encourages Religious Freedom Progress on Vietnam National Day
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) congratulated the government of Vietnam on its National Day, and encouraged the government to take steps to improve religious freedom conditions in the country.
“USCIRF commends both national and local authorities for working together to begin to help Hmong Christians in Dam Rong District, who have been rendered effectively stateless because of religious discrimination. However, this is only a first step,” USCIRF Commissioner James W. Carr stated. “We encourage the national government to work with authorities across the Central and Northern Highlands to assist other similarly situated groups. In addition, the Vietnamese government must address the religious discrimination that led to the displacement of these communities.”
U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Hearing Religious Freedom in Russia and Central Asia
Please join the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) for a virtual hearing about the alarming state of religious freedom in the Russian Federation and Central Asia, and recommendations on how the United States should respond.
Russia and various Central Asian countries have undermined religious freedom since the late 1990s, when many former Soviet states adopted repressive religion laws that drew upon past precedent. Officials across the region strictly monitor and regulate religious practice, including placing surveillance cameras in places of worship and keeping official databases with detailed personal information of community members. Regional governments actively suppress religious minorities through the denial of legal registration and the use of vague and expansive extremism laws that effectively criminalize any speech or religious practice of which they disapprove. Russia’s exportation of repressive practices to neighboring Ukraine has been particularly egregious, and it has made mandatory religious regulation and vague extremism laws significant weapons in the subjugation of occupied Crimea.
Witnesses will provide analysis on the abuse of registration and extremism laws used to target individual rights of religious communities across this region, and offer policy recommendations to the United States government.
Ambassador Sam Brownback: Communist China Is ‘Biggest Enabler of Human Rights Abuses Around the World’
The Chinese Communist Party touts itself as a global leader. And it is a leader. It’s leading the world in persecution, says Sam Brownback, the Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom. From forced organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners to forced sterilization of Uyghurs, the Chinese regime, in Ambassador Brownback’s words, has waged “War with Faith.” And it’s exporting its repressive model abroad, to the detriment of freedoms across the globe. But authoritarianism ultimately can’t defeat faith, Brownback says, in China or anywhere.
The Vatican should speak up on China’s repression in Hong Kong and beyond
Washington Post by George Weigel
The situation of religious believers in China has not improved in any measurable way in the two years since the protocol was signed, with the Chinese government and Communist Party continually encroaching on religious freedom — and even attempting to use the church for its ends. The Chinese regime’s efforts to “Sinicize” the religious communities it permits to exist have intensified, with Catholic and other churches now compelled to teach the thought of Xi Jinping. Church buildings continue to be stripped of external religious symbols. Catholic schools in Hong Kong have been “advised” to extol the virtues of the new national security law Beijing recently imposed on the city, in violation of its treaty commitments to civil liberties in Hong Kong. Even more gravely, a horrific persecution of more than 1 million Muslim Uighurs is being conducted in Xinjiang, using concentration camps, forced sterilizations and other terrors that reek of Nazi practice.
USCIRF Releases New Report about Conscientious Objection
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today released a new legislation factsheet about conscientious objection, which is the right to refuse military service based on religious beliefs. The Conscientious Objection Legislation Factsheet explains the international human rights standards that govern conscientious objection.
Russian Evangelicals Fined for ‘Missionary Activity’ During Pandemic
In the first six months of 2020, more than 40 people have been punished for violating a Russian anti-missionary law, according to a new report from Forum 18, a religious liberty news service based in Norway. “It is broad and vaguely defined,” wrote Travis Wussow, of the Southern Baptist’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, in 2016. “Of course, limiting expression and freedom in a vague way is a tried-and-true tool of regimes to stifle speech beyond the language of the law by creating fear of punishment.”
The Enslavement and the Genocide of the Uighur People in China
Alcorn blog post by Stephanie Anderson
In addition to deporting and imprisoning people, the Chinese government has worked to drastically reduce Uighur birth rates through forced birth control and abortions. “The state regularly subjects minority women to pregnancy checks, and forces intrauterine devices, sterilization and even abortion on hundreds of thousands, the interviews and data show,” the AP reports.
USCIRF Urges Justice for the Rohingya People on Third Anniversary of Genocidal Campaign
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today marked the third anniversary of the Burmese military’s violent and brutal campaign against the Rohingya people that continues to this day. “Three years after the beginning of the genocidal campaign against the Rohingya people, the Burmese government has done almost nothing to hold the military accountable or make conditions safe for the Rohingya to return to their homes,” USCIRF Commissioner Nadine Maenza stated. “Refugee camps are not a long-term solution for the Rohingya people. The United States and the international community must reinvigorate and catalyze efforts to permit the Rohingya to return to their home in Burma as full citizens.”
The Role of the United States in the Revitalization of the International Human Rights Project
Public Discourse by Michael Farris and Elyssa Koren
The recently released draft report of the Commission is grounded on the premise that the US has a rich national history of human rights protection that “should inform and elevate America’s conduct in the world.” It underscores that as human beings, each of us possesses unalienable human rights that are deemed such insofar as they are inherent to all persons. Astonishingly, this simple and critically needed message that fundamental rights are rooted in natural law exist has sparked outcry, even on the part of self-described defenders of human rights.
Trump Admin May Label China’s Treatment of Uighurs a ‘Genocide’: Report
The National Security Council, State Department, and the Department of Homeland Security are still weighing whether to use the term, Trump administration officials told Politico. The administration could designate China’s treatment of Uighurs as “crimes against humanity” or “ethnic cleansing” if there is not enough support for a formal designation of “genocide.”
USCIRF Conversation: An Update on Rohingya Refugees
August 25th marks the third anniversary of the Burmese military campaign in Rakhine State that resulted in mass atrocities and displaced hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims. Please join the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) for a virtual event to discuss the current situation of Rohingya Muslims in Burma and in refugee camps in Bangladesh, as well as the pending international lawsuits against the Burmese government.
USCIRF Calls for Action on UN International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) recognizes the United Nations’ second annual International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief ahead of August 22, the official remembrance date. “Commemorating the many victims of violence based on religion or belief is critical, but only the first step,” says USCIRF Chair Gayle Manchin, “The international community must work together to achieve justice for the survivors of past abuses by holding perpetrators accountable, and demonstrating to governments that action must be taken to ‘never again’ tolerate genocide or other atrocities.”
Secretary Mike Pompeo’s Ringing Call to Secure Human Rights and Liberty
Daily Signal by Anthony Kim
Following the inaugural report by the State Department’s Commission on Unalienable Rights, a recent Heritage Foundation paper made the case for economic freedom as the linchpin of indivisible human rights. When citizens are empowered economically, they gain the independence and means to demand and effectively preserve their civil and political rights through democratic action.
To that end, it is more important than ever to keep the vital linkage between human rights and economic freedom as a critical pillar of foreign policy. Working closely with like-minded and willing allies in efforts to defend individual freedom and civil society should be the central component of U.S. foreign policy toward Europe.
The Ongoing and Intensifying Persecution of Christians in India
More and more in India, it seems that preserving “communal peace” means “keeping Hindu fanatics from attacking and/or killing their non-Hindu neighbors.” According to a new report by the group Persecution Relief, “Hate crimes against Christians in India [rose] by an alarming 40.87 percent” in the first half of 2020, “even despite the nationwide [coronavirus] lockdown in place since March 25.”
According to the report, the “293 cases of persecution against Christians reported in the first six months of 2020 included five religious-motivated rapes and six religiously-motivated murders.” The vast majority of these hate crimes are committed by Hindu nationalists who wish to turn India into a Hindu state, and therefore oppose Christianity and Christian missionary work.
U.S. leaders tell USAID to protect U.S. funds from subsidizing pro-abortion activities
Sen. James Lankford
Today, 60 Members of Congress – led by Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) – sent a bicameral letter to Acting USAID Administrator John Barsa, urging him to protect U.S. funds from subsidizing pro-abortion activities and lobbying by the United Nations. The letter thanks Administrator Barsa for the letter he sent on May 18, 2020 to the United Nations (UN) Secretary General asking the UN to “remove references to ‘sexual and reproductive health,’ and its derivatives from the Global Humanitarian Response Plan, and drop the provision of abortion as an essential component of the UN’s priorities to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.” The letter praises this advocacy and urges additional action to enforce the Siljander Amendment, an annual appropriations rider that, since 1981, has prohibited the use of U.S. funds for abortion-related lobbying.
Joint Statement of the United States, the State of Israel, and the United Arab Emirates
President Donald J. Trump, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, and Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the United Arab Emirates spoke today and agreed to the full normalization of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.
This historic diplomatic breakthrough will advance peace in the Middle East region and is a testament to the bold diplomacy and vision of the three leaders and the courage of the United Arab Emirates and Israel to chart a new path that will unlock the great potential in the region.
Iran Senior Sanctioned Officials Responsible for Egregious Religious Freedom Violations
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today released the following new report: Iran Sanctions Factsheet – This factsheet highlights key senior Iranian officials who the United States Department of Treasury has sanctioned for their complicity in severe violations of religious freedom. Two successive administrations have utilized the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act and several Iran-specific executive orders over the past 10 years to sanction individuals for these violations, which affect Iranians across many different faith communities. The factsheet provides background on several officials linked to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as well as two of the infamous “hanging judges” who are known for having imposed unjustly harsh sentences on Iranian citizens following peaceful protests in 2009.
USCIRF Releases New Report about Religious Prisoners in Turkmenistan’s Gulag
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today released the following new report: Turkmenistan Policy Update - This update describes the brutal conditions that religious prisoners face in Turkmenistan, including detention or disappearance in the country’s vast prison system. Muslims, whom the government has vaguely or falsely accused of “Islamic extremism,” represent a disproportionately high number of those who disappeared or are serving harsh sentences. Additionally, while the Jehovah’s Witnesses are not technically banned in Turkmenistan, the government is conducting an ongoing crackdown on their conscientious objection to military service. USCIRF documents some of the known religious prisoners in Turkmenistan on its Freedom of Religion or Belief Victims List, although many more are believed to be held in secret. This report raises awareness about this inhumane prison system, details the cases of individuals imprisoned, and urges the U.S. Government to confront these gross violations of religious freedom and human dignity.
U.S. Bishops Condemn Attack Against Cathedral of Managua, Nicaragua
Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, issued the following statement:
“Alongside Pope Francis and my brother bishops throughout Latin America, I condemn the sacrilegious attack against the Cathedral of Managua that occurred on Friday, July 31. Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, archbishop of Managua, called the incendiary-bomb attack an ‘act of terrorism.’ The apparent target of the explosion—an historic crucifix crafted in the 17th century—has become a poignant image of the country’s suffering Church, which has sustained repeated rhetorical and physical attacks (three in the last three weeks) since attempting to mediate peace in 2018.
USCIRF Condemns Death Sentence for Yahaya Sharif-Aminu on Blasphemy Charges
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today condemned the death sentence announced on August 10 of 22-year-old Nigerian singer Yahaya Sharif-Aminu for allegedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad in a song he circulated on the messaging platform WhatsApp in March. “Blasphemy laws are inconsistent with universal human rights standards because they fail to respect recognized rights, including freedom of religion and expression,” said USCIRF Vice Chair Tony Perkins. “The Nigerian government must overturn Sharif-Aminu’s death sentence and repeal blasphemy laws still present in state-sponsored courts.”
USCIRF Applauds Global Magnitsky Sanctions Against Xinjiang Entity
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today applauded the U.S. Department of Treasury’s designation of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC) under the Global Magnitsky Act for committing egregious religious freedom violations against Uyghur and other Muslims. “For years, we have advocated for sanctioning the XPCC. This announcement is a significant step even beyond the sanctions announced earlier this month against senior Communist Party officials,” USCIRF Commissioner Nury Turkel stated. “The XPCC is essentially a parallel government in Xinjiang and has been directly involved in implementing the surveillance, mass detention, and forced labor of Uyghurs.”
USCIRF Commends Release of Religious Prisoner of Conscience Hamid Bin Haydara and 5 Other Baha’is in Yemen
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) commends the Houthi authorities’ release of Religious Prisoner of Conscience Hamid bin Haydara along with five other detained members of the Baha’i community in Yemen. Charges against members of the Baha’i community remain in place despite their release. “Hamid bin Haydara’s release has been long overdue; it is an important but insufficient step,” said USCIRF Commissioner Johnnie Moore, who advocates for Mr. bin Haydara as part of USCIRF’s Religious Prisoner of Conscience Project. “The Houthis must drop all charges immediately and unconditionally against Mr. bin Haydara and all other Baha'is in Yemen.”