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Persecution in countries like India, China, and Saudi Arabia, continues to deteriorate

06/03/2022 Washington D.C. International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that the U.S. Department of State recently published its 2021 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom, a report that details the status of religious freedom in every country around the world.

This year’s report to U.S. Congress identified countries that made notable progress toward religious freedom, such as Morocco, Taiwan, and Iraq. Yet, in countries like India, China, and Saudi Arabia, the situation continues to deteriorate.

While the U.S. Department of State announced its list of countries of particular concern in November, it recently released the full report.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, “We know that when the fundamental right of each person to practice their faith … is respected, people can make their fullest contributions to community successes [and] entire societies are better off.”

Rashad Hussain, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, reiterated the importance of the report to “… give voice to countless individuals around the world who have been killed, beaten, threatened, harassed, or jailed for seeking to exercise their beliefs in accordance with the dictates of their conscience.”

One country of particular concern addressed in the report was Pakistan for its blasphemy and apostasy laws which target the speech of religious minorities. Secretary Blinken noted at least 16 individuals in Pakistan were sentenced to death for blasphemy in 2021. The report also found that blasphemy accusations have led to mob violence from non-state actors, and religious minorities continue to face widespread harassment and discrimination because of their faith.

In Eritrea, the report found significant restrictions on the right to freely practice one’s faith. For example, the Eritrean government only recognizes four religious groups, and individuals caught practicing other religions have reportedly been arrested and subjected to government abuse.

The report also highlighted the genocides and crimes against humanity occurring in countries such as Burma and China. In Burma, Rohingya Muslims are routinely targeted by the Burmese military, and hundreds of thousands have been forcibly displaced because of violence. As a result of the coup in the country last year, Burmese Christians were also heavily persecuted by the harsh intolerance of the Burmese military.

And in China, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has tried to systematically rid the country of its predominantly Muslim Uyghur population. Secretary Blinken noted that since April 2017, more than one million Uyghurs and other minority groups had been detained in internment camps for disagreeing with CCP doctrine. Additionally, Christians are continually imprisoned by Chinese authorities and have their places of worship heavily restricted by the CCP.

One area of progress highlighted in the report was from Iraq, where the government welcomed Pope Francis in March 2021 for his first papal visit. Still, as reiterated by Secretary Blinken, “the report also shows us that we have more work to do.”

“We welcome the State Department’s latest report and commend the progress made by several countries to protect religious freedom,” said ICC President Jeff King. “However, we remain concerned by reports of increased violence and discrimination that Christians face globally. We urge the State Department to hold those responsible for these attacks accountable and look forward to working with U.S. authorities to ensure the right to religious freedom is protected for all.”