US: Religious persecution up in Afghanistan, China

ICC Note:

“The U.S. State Department said Tuesday in a review of religious freedom around the world that persecution has worsened in China and Afghanistan,” The Associated Press reports.

By Matthew Pennington

9/14/2011 Afghanistan/China (Associated Press) – The U.S. State Department said Tuesday in a review of religious freedom around the world that persecution has worsened in China and Afghanistan.

The report also criticized Pakistan for failing to reform a blasphemy law used to persecute religious minorities and in some cases Muslims who promote tolerance. It said military-dominated Myanmar still holds hundreds of Buddhist monks imprisoned following a 2007 crackdown on prodemocracy demonstrations.

The report, which is required by Congress, covers the second half of 2010. Among other Asian governments which come in for criticism are communist Vietnam and Laos.

The U.S. said in China, proselytizing in public or unregistered places of worship is not permitted, and some religious and spiritual groups are outlawed. Chinese Communist Party members are discouraged from participating in religious activities.

In the far west, the report said, Uighur Muslims faced restrictions on private hajj pilgrimages and the wearing of Muslim headscarves in some areas. Tibetan Buddhist religious leaders also reported increased discrimination. They are are not free to openly venerate their exiled leader the Dalai Lama and encounter severe government interference in religious practice.

In Afghanistan, the report said, the government has failed to protect Christian converts, while minority Hindus, Sikhs and Bahais also face persecution. Together, they constitute about 1 percent of the population in the conservative Muslim nation.

The report said May 2010 video footage of Christian converts being baptized aired repeatedly on an Afghan television station and drew inflammatory public statements by two lawmakers. These incidents led to targeting of Christian groups and individuals.

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