Religious rights watchdog pushes to add Pakistan, Syria to list of worst offenderscomment (0)
June 5, 2014
One of the nation’s leading — and official — champions of religious freedom implored the Obama administration to add Pakistan and Syria to the list of nations that most egregiously violate religious rights.
Before a congressional subcommittee May 22, Robert P. George, chairman of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, said it makes little sense that the roster compiled by the U.S. has barely changed in a decade.
The congressionally chartered commission advocated that the State Department add eight nations to the eight already designated as “countries of particular concern (CPC).”
“Pakistan represents the worst religious freedom environment for a country not designated as a CPC,” said George, whose testimony highlighted Pakistan’s harsh anti-blasphemy laws and chronic violence against the nation’s Muslims, Christians and Hindus.
George spoke of the “horrible and tragic” sectarian conflict in Syria that has killed tens of thousands and displaced millions. Sunni versus Shiite violence is rampant. Extremist religious groups, including al-Qaida affiliates, target Christians and other religious minorities.
His remarks to a subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee come as the State Department prepares to issue its annual International Religious Freedom Report, considered the global gold standard for measuring nations’ statuses on religious rights.
By law, the State Department must release the report by early September. The CPC list, when it is updated, has traditionally been published at the same time.
George described the list as a powerful tool to pressure countries to improve their human rights records and to give heart to religious freedom activists and the oppressed.
George also said CPCs should be expanded to include non-state actors, such as militant group Boko Haram.
Currently on the list: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan. In addition to Pakistan and Syria, George’s commission wants to add Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Vietnam.