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11/08/2022 (United States) International Christian Concern – The International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance (IRFBA) released a statement yesterday expressing its continued concern over international blasphemy laws. In a recent study published by Monash University in Melbourne, researchers found that at least twelve countries retained the death penalty as a criminal punishment for blasphemy or related offenses. Blasphemy laws, which are strategically used to prevent the speech of religious minorities, are found in more than 80 countries. Yet the following nations assign capital punishment to these offenses, namely Afghanistan, Brunei, Iran, Maldives, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

The International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance (IRFBA) is a multi-national alliance of countries committed to protecting religious freedom around the world. The United States joined in solidarity with the most recent statement along with 15 other IRFBA countries, including Australia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, Greece, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and the United Kingdom. 

With the release of its statement, members of the IRFBA called for several actions, including the global “…repeal or reform of blasphemy laws” and the “release [of] individuals imprisoned based on their views on matters of religion or belief that may differ from official narratives or the views of majority populations.” Furthermore, member countries reiterated their commitment to “…the Istanbul Process as a process for monitoring and driving the implementation of UN Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18 action plan to prevent and respond to manifestations of intolerance, discrimination, hatred, and violence based on religion or belief.”

While some countries, such as Pakistan, have never enforced the death penalty as a punishment for blasphemy, it is critical to note that the statute’s very existence has inspired mob vigilantes to carry out justice on their own accord. In fact, one report estimates that violent mobs have killed at least 89 individuals over blasphemy allegations in Pakistan – and these accusations are rising exponentially, with a 1,300 percent increase observed in the past 30 years. As the situation for victims accused of blasphemy deteriorates globally, it is essential for foreign governments like the United States to continue being vocal advocates against these laws.

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