U.S. Religious Freedom Panel Finds ‘Alarming’ Increase in Global Persecution Over Past Year

Refugees pdWASHINGTON — A federal religious freedom panel has released its annual report, finding an “alarming” increase in global persecution over the past year.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) scrutinizes religious freedom in countries around the world each year and reports back to the White House on the state of affairs, as well as the government’s implementation of the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA).

“Humanitarian crises fueled by waves of terror, intimidation, and violence have engulfed an alarming number of countries in the year since the release of [USCIRF’s] prior annual report last May,” the commission wrote. “The horrors of the past year speak volumes about how and why religious freedom and the protection of the rights of vulnerable religious communities matter.”

The report focused mainly on the persecution of Christians and other religious groups at the hand of ISIS, which identifies itself as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

“Yazidis and Christians have borne the worst brunt of the persecution by ISIL and other violent religious extremists. From summary executions to forced conversions, rape to sexual enslavement, abducted children to destroyed houses of worship, attacks on these communities are part of a systematic effort to erase their presence from the Middle East,” the commission explained.

However, other similar Islamic terror organizations such as Boko Haram were also discussed in the presentation.

“In Nigeria, Boko Haram has attacked both Muslims and Christians,” it stated. “From mass murders at churches and mosques to mass kidnappings of children from schools, Boko Haram has cut a wide path of terror across vast swaths of Nigeria.”

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The commission noted that millions of Christians and other religious groups have been forced to flee due to persecution.

“In Iraq, 2 million people were internally displaced in 2014 as a result of ISIL’s offensive,” it outlined. “More than 6.5 million of Syria’s pre-civil-war population now is internally displaced, and more than 3.3 million more are refugees in neighboring states.”

“In Nigeria, Boko Haram’s rampages are responsible for the displacement of more than one million individuals,” the report continued. “In Central African Republic, a million or more people have been driven from their homes. And in Burma, 140,000 Rohingya Muslims and at least 100,000 largely Kachin Christians remain internally displaced.”

The commission recommended that the State Department add eight nations to its list of “countries of particular concern,” including the Central African Republic, Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria and Pakistan. It urged the Obama administration to additionally work toward promoting religious freedom in countries such as China, Iran, North Korea and Saudi Arabia.

Many other nations are on the commission’s watch list as concerns have been raised over their treatment of religious groups, including Cuba, India, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan and Russia.

“With serious religious freedom violations occurring all around the world, these horrors speak volumes about how and why religious freedom and the protection of the rights of vulnerable religious communities matter,” said USCIRF Chair Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett in a statement.

“All nations should care about abuses beyond their borders, not only for humanitarian reasons, but because what goes on in other nations rarely remains there,” she said. “In the long run, there is only one permanent guarantor of the safety, security and survival of the persecuted and vulnerable. It is the full recognition of religious freedom.”

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