According to the 2022 annual report of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, approximately half of the world’s population lives in countries where serious violations of religious freedom occur.
Twenty-seven countries engage in or condone such attacks, the commission said. uscirf.gov/annual-reports.
Most are in Asia and Africa, but two – Cuba and Nicaragua – are located in the Western Hemisphere.
“It’s happening all over the world,” said commissioner James Carr, a former executive vice president of Harding University who lives in Searcy.
The commission designated 15 of the 27 as “countries of particular concern,” nations where the government “engages in or tolerates ‘particularly serious’ violations of religious freedom,” the report said.
Those named as the worst offenders were Afghanistan, Burma, China, Eritrea, India, Iran, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria , Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Vietnam.
Twelve others have been placed on the commission’s “special watch list” due to religious persecution: Algeria, Azerbaijan, Central African Republic, Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Nicaragua, Turkey and Uzbekistan.
The conclusions of the report received the unanimous support of the Commissioners.
“We are discouraged by the deterioration of freedom of religion or belief in some countries, particularly Afghanistan under the de facto Taliban government since August,” commission chair Nadine Maenza said in a written statement. . “Religious minorities have been harassed, detained and even killed because of their faith or beliefs, and years of progress towards more equitable access to education and representation for women and girls has disappeared.”
The bipartisan commission, established by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, describes itself as an “independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the United States Congress to monitor, analyze, and report threats to religious freedom abroad.”
The targets of oppression vary by location, Carr said.
Russia arrested Jehovah’s Witnesses. Nicaragua’s persecution has focused, primarily, on the Catholic Church. China, on the other hand, targets a variety of religious movements, including Muslims, Christians, Tibetan Buddhists and Falun Gong members, the report said.
Religious persecution is not a new phenomenon, Carr noted.
“Over the years, the group that has been the subject of a lot of press – and they should have because they were mistreated – is the Jewish population,” he said. “Now we see it with Christians. We see it with Muslims, being mistreated by other Muslims and being mistreated, especially, by the Chinese government. It’s just that it’s so sad.”
Carr, a member of the Churches of Christ, was appointed to the commission in February 2020. His term ends later this month.
He has served alongside Jewish, Muslim and Hindu commissioners to highlight the importance of religious freedom, and his work has not gone unnoticed.
Carr’s criticism of China’s treatment of its predominantly Muslim Uyghur population has angered officials in Beijing.
In December, the government said he and three other Americans would be banned from entering the country or doing business there, saying the United States “has no rights and is [in] no position to interfere” in China’s internal affairs.
Carr was unfazed by the ban, describing it as “a badge of honor”.
China may not have liked Carr, but his colleagues on the commission did.
“Commissioner Carr has been a tremendous asset to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom and an effective advocate for persecuted Christians around the world,” said Tony Perkins, another commissioner and former chair of the body.