ICC Commends the Release of USCIRF’s 2022 Report
04/25/2022 International Christian Concern – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) published its 2022 Annual Report on Monday with recommendations to the U.S. Department of State regarding the status of international religious freedom around the world.
In the report, USCIRF, a bipartisan commission created by the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act, recommended that 15 countries be included on the Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) list—The U.S. Department of State’s most severe designation—and that 12 countries be included on the Special Watchlist (SWL).
“We are grateful for the outstanding work of USCIRF on behalf of religious freedom,” said ICC President Jeff King. “This is a tremendous resource that puts pressure on the oppressive foreign regimes and leaders who curtail the free expression of faith by their citizenry. USCIRF gives voice to the persecuted and serves as a champion for their cause in the halls of Congress and beyond.”
The 2022 report includes several countries with well-known records of religious persecution including China, North Korea, and Iran which have consistently made USCIRF CPC designation. The most notable addition in 2022 is Afghanistan, recommended for the CPC list—having been moved from the SWL—following a rapid decline in 2021 which left Christian and religious minorities increasingly vulnerable.
“We are disheartened by the deterioration of freedom of religion or belief in some countries— especially Afghanistan under the Taliban’s de facto government since August. Religious minorities have faced harassment, detention, and even death due to their faith or beliefs, and years of progress toward more equitable access to education and representation of women and girls have disappeared” said Nadine Maenza, Chair of the USCIRF Commission, about the situation.
Also notable was Nigeria and India’s continued inclusion on USCIRF’s CPC recommendations, as relative newcomers to the list following years of violence against religious minority communities. The U.S. Department of State, however, chose not to follow those recommendations in November when it announced its CPC and SWL designations.
Despite the State Department’s decision to take Nigeria off the CPC list in November 2021—a move that drew widespread criticism from Congress and human rights watchdogs—USCIRF found that religious freedom conditions remained poor in 2021. Christians in Nigeria face the double threat of violent nonstate actors and a government that does not care about their predicament and sometimes persecutes them directly. In October 2021, Governor El-Rufai of Nigeria’s Kaduna State criminalized preaching without a state-issued license in a first-of-its-kind edict.
This is the third straight year that USCIRF recommended that India be designated as a CPC. Last year, the report stated, “religious freedom conditions in India significantly worsened” as the government “systemize[d] its ideological vision of a Hindu state at both the national and state levels using both existing and new laws and structural changes hostile to the country’s religious minorities.” ICC has worked in India for many years and documented this increase in persecution firsthand in a report published last year titled, India’s Anti-Conversion Laws and Their Effects on the Christian Community.
“Once again, USCIRF has done an invaluable service to the cause of international religious freedom in releasing this important report,” said Matias Perttula, ICC’s director of Advocacy. “As one of the world’s leading voices on the topic, USCIRF has an important role to play in calling out bad actors and calling for increased religious freedom around the world. India and Nigeria deserve to be designated as CPCs and ICC calls on the Department of State to follow USCIRF’s recommendations as it does its part to promote this vital freedom all around the world.”
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Since 1995, ICC has served the global persecuted church through a three-pronged approach of advocacy, awareness, and assistance. ICC exists to bandage the wounds of persecuted Christians and to build the church in the toughest parts of the world.