A few weeks ago here on the blog, I wrote about why our American government keeps track of religious liberty in other countries and puts pressure on violators of religious freedom.
What the report describes is sickening and appalling. But this is information we must know if we are to stand with the oppressed and work through our government and other organizations to assure violations of this foundational human right cease.
In releasing this year's report, USCIRF Chair Nury Turkel said this:
“USCIRF is disheartened by the deteriorating conditions for freedom of religion or belief in some countries — especially in Iran, where authorities harassed, arrested, tortured and sexually assaulted people peacefully protesting against mandatory hijab laws, alongside their brutal continuing repression of religious minority communities.
“We strongly urge the Biden administration to implement USCIRF’s recommendations — in particular, to designate the countries recommended as CPCs (Countries of Particular Concern), and for the Special Watch List, or SWL, and to review U.S. policy toward the four CPC-designated countries for which waivers were issued on taking any action. We also stress the importance of Congress acting to prohibit any person from receiving compensation for lobbying on behalf of foreign adversaries, including those engaging in particularly severe violations of the right to freedom of religion of belief.”
Early in the new report, USCIRF focuses directly on what's been happening in Iran:
"In September 2022, Iran’s morality police arrested, beat and mortally wounded Mahsa Zhina Amini because her visible hair violated the government’s religiously grounded headscarf law. Outraged by this flagrant denial of life, young women and girls led hundreds of thousands of fellow Iranians in peaceful protests asserting their right to freedom of religion or belief, risking severe punishment, permanent injury and even death. Rather than respect this call to abide by its obligations under international law, the Iranian government ramped up a campaign of violent repression against its own people. Security forces shot children like Kian Pirfalak (age nine), beat and killed girls like Nika Shakarami (age 16), and repeatedly sexually harassed, sexually assaulted and raped scores of peaceful protesters like Armita Abbasi (age 21). Iran’s government then used intimidation and threats to prevent victims’ families from speaking publicly and truthfully about this repression."
Then, moving beyond the horrific example of Iran, the USCIRF makes these recommendations to the State Department (EPC stands for "Entities of Particular Concern"):
■Redesignate as CPCs the following 12 countries: Burma, China, Cuba, Eritrea, Iran, Nicaragua, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan
■Designate as additional CPCs the following five countries: Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, Syria, and Vietnam
■Maintain on the SWL the following two countries: Algeria and the Central African Republic (CAR)
■Include on the SWL the following nine countries: Azerbaijan, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Turkey, and Uzbekistan
■Redesignate as EPCs the following seven nonstate actors: al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the Houthis, Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP also referred to as ISIS-West Africa), and Jamaat Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM).
Please let your elected officials know you care about religious freedom by finding their email addresses online (easy to do) and asking them what they intend to do in response to this new, heartbreaking report. In fact, here are links to the email pages of Missouri senators Josh Hawley and Eric Schmitt and Kansas senators Jerry Moran and Roger Marshall.
I told you it was easy.
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NEXT MOVE NEEDED ON THE 'DOCTRINE OF DISCOVERY'
A month ago here on the blog, I wrote about the Vatican's recent repudiation of the 15th Century "Doctrine of Discovery." This RNS opinion piece makes clear that though the move was welcome, it's far from enough. Among other things, the piece says, the repudiation "failed to submit the Roman Catholic Church to any accountability for the extensive harm the doctrine caused over the centuries — colonization itself, as well as the motivating values and beliefs inherent in the Doctrine of Discovery that continued well after the first several centuries of active colonialism and conquest declined." And the Catholic Church shares this awful history with many others. I think Voltaire (1694-1778) may have been right when he wrote this: "The history of the great events of this world is hardly more than the history of crimes."