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ICC Note: For the second-straight year, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), has included four countries on their 2016 report designated as “Countries of Particular Concern” with respect to religious freedom abuses. This means that the commission finds that religious freedom abuses are “ongoing” and “egregious,” either perpetrated by the state, ignored by the state, or the state lacks capacity to curb the problems reported. The number in sub-Saharan Africa includes, Nigeria, Sudan, Eritrea, and Central African Republic.

5/2/16 Africa (USCIRF) – By any measure, religious freedom abroad has been under serious and sustained assault since the release of our commission’s last Annual Report in 2015. From the plight of new and longstanding prisoners of conscience, to the dramatic rise in the numbers of refugees and internally displaced persons, to the continued acts of bigotry against Jews and Muslims in Europe, and to the other abuses detailed in this report, there was no shortage of attendant suffering worldwide.

The incarceration of prisoners of conscience – people whom governments hold for reasons including those related to religion – remains astonishingly widespread, occurring in country after country, and underscores the impact of the laws and policies that led to their imprisonment.

In China, Pastor Bao Guohua and his wife, Xing Wenxiang, were sentenced in Zhejiang Province in February 2016 to 14 and 12 years in prison, respectively, for leading a Christian congregation that was opposing a government campaign to remove crosses atop churches. They join many other prisoners of conscience, including Ilham Tohti, a respected Uighur Muslim scholar, who was given a life sentence in September 2014 for alleged separatism.

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