The State Department on Thursday unveiled its list of countries designated as the worst offenders against religious liberty. The countries of Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan were labeled as “Countries of Particular Concern” (CPC) in the State Department’s report. The 10 countries on the CPC list are unchanged from last year.
In addition, Pakistan was placed on a “Special Watch List,” which is a new category below that of Countries of Particular Concern.
A country is labeled as a CPC after it engages in “systemic, ongoing, [and] egregious” violations of religious liberty. The “Special Watch List” is for countries that “engage in or tolerate severe violations” of religious liberty, but not to the extent of a CPC.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), a government commission created in 1998 to study religious liberty around the world, praised the inclusion of the 10 CPC counties, but said that several others should have been added.
“In far too many places around the globe, people continue to be persecuted, unjustly prosecuted, or imprisoned for exercising their right to freedom of religion or belief. Today, a number of governments infringe upon individuals’ ability to adopt, change, or renounce their religion or belief, worship in accordance with their religion or beliefs, or be free from coercion to practice a particular religion or belief”, the statement said.
“The protection of religious freedom is vital to peace, stability, and prosperity. These designations are aimed at improving the respect for religious freedom in these countries. We recognize that several designated countries are working to improve their respect for religious freedom; we welcome these initiatives and look forward to continued dialogue. The United States remains committed to working with governments, civil society organizations, and religious leaders to advance religious freedom around the world.”