The US has designated 10 nations, including Pakistan and China, as “Countries of Particular Concern” for having engaged in or tolerated severe violations of religious freedom.
In a statement, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Biden Administration was committed to supporting every individual’s right to freedom of religion or belief, including by confronting and combating violators and abusers of this human right.
“I am designating Burma, the People`s Republic of China, Eritrea, Iran, the DPRK, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan as Countries of Particular Concern for having engaged in or tolerated systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom,” the statement read.
Blinken said he was placing Algeria, Comoros, Cuba, and Nicaragua on a Special Watch List for governments that had engaged in or tolerated “severe violations of religious freedom.
“The challenges to religious freedom in the world today are structural, systemic, and deeply entrenched, said Blinken. “We will continue to press all governments to remedy shortcomings in their laws and practices, and to promote accountability for those responsible for abuses,” he said.
“The United States remains committed to working with governments, civil society organizations, and members of religious communities to advance religious freedom around the world and address the plight of individuals and communities facing abuse, harassment, and discrimination on account of what they believe, or what they do not believe,” he said.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) praised the State Department’s move to put 10 nations in the list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPCs), including Nigeria for the first time, and four countries on the SWL for severe violations, pursuant to the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA).
“We are gratified that the State Department has named 10 countries as CPCs. We particularly welcome Nigeria’s designation for the first time as a CPC for tolerating egregious violations of religious freedom, which USCIRF had been recommending since 2009. Nigeria is the first secular democracy that has been named a CPC, which demonstrates that we must be vigilant that all forms of governments respect religious freedom,” said USCIRF Chair Gayle Manchin.