ICC NOTE: The U.S. State Department has released its 2015 International Religious Freedom Report. This is an important piece of information not only for those advocating for religious freedom, but also for how the State Department will review the issue in their diplomatic channels abroad. In the latest report, blasphemy laws take a front seat as the rise in cases inside Pakistan and similar countries have become almost common place. Russia and the Ukraine have both made their way into the report as persecution of religious minorities in Ukraine by both separatists and Russian forces have been documented. Nearly 18 evangelical churches were confiscated by pro-Russian forces and the orthodox church in Ukraine when hostilities were at its peak. Russia’s situation has evolved since the State Departments findings from last year as the new anti-terror law which took effect July 20 of 2016 has placed undue restrictions upon evangelism and missionary activity of all kinds.
8/11/2016 Washington, DC (World Watch Monitor) – The U.S. State Department on 10 Aug. released its 2015 International Religious Freedom Report. Required by U.S. law, the report contains an assessment of the conditions supporting, or suppressing, freedom of religion or belief in nearly 200 countries, excluding the United States.
The annual document influences American diplomacy and assistance programs around the world, and is the basis for the secretary of state’s yearly list of “countries of particular concern.”
Countries on that list are subject to diplomatic sanctions. According to the state department, nearly a quarter of the world’s countries, comprising three-quarters of the world’s population, have “serious restrictions on religious freedom, whether caused by government policies or the hostile acts of individuals, organizations, or societal groups.”
The impact of anti-blasphemy laws
“I want to highlight this year the chilling, sometimes deadly effect of blasphemy and apostasy laws in many places of the world, as well as laws that purport to protect religious sentiments from defamation. Roughly a quarter of the world’s countries have blasphemy laws, and more than one in 10 have laws or policies penalizing apostasy, and the existence of these laws has been used by governments in too many cases to intimidate, repress religious minorities, and governments