01/05/2024 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) — The U.S. State Department released its annual report on country designations yesterday, highlighting both positive and concerning developments regarding religious freedom across the globe.
Azerbaijan, for the first time in history, has been added to the Special Watch List (SWL), indicating progress in the nation’s commitment to religious freedom.
Vietnam remains on the SWL for the second consecutive year. USCIRF has persistently recommended Vietnam for Country of Particular Concern (CPC) status over the last two decades.
Nicaragua has maintained its position on the CPC list for the second year, signifying ongoing challenges concerning religious freedom within the country.
India, despite the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom’s (USCIRF) consistent recommendations since 2020, remains excluded from the CPC list, raising questions and prompting USCIRF to call for a congressional hearing into the State Department’s decision.
Nigeria, despite a history of violence and slaughter against Christians, was also excluded from the CPC list this year, sparking controversy and debate around the decision, with some alleging bureaucratic reasons. Tens of thousands of Christians have been killed at the hands of radical Islamic terrorist groups in nearly 20 years.
“International Christian Concern (ICC) is deeply concerned by the State Department’s omission of Nigeria and India from the CPC list,” says McKenna Wendt, ICC’s Advocacy manager. “There is clear evidence that both countries meet the legal standard for CPC status. During the Christmas season, hundreds of Christians were slaughtered in Nigeria. And in India, anti-conversion laws, mob violence, and extremist ideology continues to suppress the Christian community, ICC stands in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Nigeria and India, and we call on the U.S. State Department to hold these governments accountable.”
USCIRF has made a significant call for a congressional hearing into the State Department’s decisions regarding India and Nigeria’s exclusion from the list, signaling the commission’s commitment to examining and ensuring religious freedom concerns are properly addressed.
Afghanistan continues to be omitted from both lists, with the Taliban’s status cited as an Entity of Particular Concern (EPC) due to complications arising from the State Department’s non-recognition of the Taliban as the official government.
Boko Haram retains its EPC designation, a status held since 2018, maintaining its status as an entity the United States will fight against.
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