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ICC Note: The more than 13 million people who have fled religion-linked conflicts is one of the major concerns in an annual report highlighting violations of religious freedom around the world. The annual report from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIF), also looked at the issues of blasphemy laws and non-state actors as particular issues of concern for driving persecution around the world.

04/29/2015 Middle East (Christianity Today) More than 13 million people worldwide have fled conflicts and crises in which religion has been a key factor, according to the 2015 report from the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

The annual report released today reveals that most of the 13 million people displaced are from seven nations: Syria, Iraq, Nigeria, Central African Republic (CAR), Eritrea, Burma, and Afghanistan.

“Not a day goes by without at least one country from these lists appearing on the front page of a major newspaper,” USCIRF chair Katrina Lantos Swett said in a press statement. She noted:

Humanitarian crises fueled by waves of terror, intimidation, and violence have engulfed an alarming number of countries over the past year. All nations should care about abuses beyond their borders not only for humanitarian reasons but because what goes on in other nations rarely remains there. In the long run, there is only one permanent guarantor of the safety, security and survival of the persecuted and vulnerable. It is the full recognition of religious freedom.

The commission’s top recommendation to address the surge in displaced people is that the US government should raise the ceiling on the number of refugee resettled from 70,000 to at least 100,000, with “additional reserves” for the Middle East.

In addition to displaced people, the report highlights five additional major concerns:

Blasphemy laws: “Pakistan, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, and Saudi Arabia are among the countries with blasphemy laws that egregiously violate religious freedom and position the government as an arbiter of truth.”

Non-state actors: “Non-state actors’ actions present a major challenge to freedom of religion or belief. In the CAR, Nigeria, Iraq, and Syria, non-state actors are among the primary perpetrators of egregious religious freedom and human rights violations.” The commission recommends new efforts to identify nations where non-state actors diminish religious freedom.

Prisoners of conscience: “In Iran, hundreds are in jail for their beliefs, including Baha’is, Christian converts, Sufi and Sunni Muslims, and dissident Shi’a reformers and clerics. Thousands of others are imprisoned in countries including Uzbekistan, North Korea, and Eritrea.”

Religious minorities under attack: “In Pakistan, Shi’a, Christians, Hindus, Ahmadis and others regularly are confronted by violence.”

Transnational justice: “USCIRF recommends the U.S. government call for or support a referral by the UN Security Council to the International Criminal Court to investigate ISIL violations in Iraq and Syria against religious and ethnic minorities, following the models used in Sudan and Libya.”

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