WASHINGTON – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom says religious persecution has gotten worse around the world.
The USCIRF said people continue to be persecuted, imprisoned and even killed for exercising their right to freedom of religion or belief.
Their annual report highlights severe violations that are taking place in Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The Department of State re-designated the 10 countries as "Countries of Particular Concern" in accordance with the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.
"North Korea religious freedom is completely non-existent. That is just one part of the huge lack of human rights in that country," noted USCIRF Chair Daniel Mark.
Mark also joined a bipartisan group of past USCIRF chairs in an open letter to the people of Iran praising their courage and even calling on the U.S. government to support the protesters of Iran.
He pledged they would be "standing in solidarity with the people who are advocating for religious freedom and other human rights."
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also placed Pakistan on a "Special Watch List" for severe violations of religious freedom.
But one country absent from the list was Russia, which was recommended by the USCIRF as a country of concern.
"The trend in Russia has been very bad lately, the passage and ramping up of anti-extremism laws which are used not just against terrorists but a variety of religious minorities and dissidents," said Mark.
The commission aims to improve the lives for people of faith in these countries by recommending a diplomatic response and even sanctions on account of religious freedom violations.