International report identifies worst violators of religious freedom


  • USCIRF notes tentative steps forward in some countries such as Sudan and Uzbekistan
  • Report urges U.S.-Administration to continue to prioritize international religious freedom

WASHINGTON DC (29 April 2020) – Religious liberty remains under threat worldwide. This is the finding of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom in its annual report published this week. The report identifies 14 countries as “countries of particular concern” for their “systematic, ongoing, and egregious” violations of religious freedom, and recommends 15 other countries as needing special monitoring for their severe violations.

“Nobody should be persecuted because of their faith. The persecution of Christians and other religious minorities across the globe has not only been an ongoing concern for a long time but has also risen in intensity and scale. Christians in countries like Pakistan, Iran, and Myanmar are regularly victims of violence, false or unjust accusations, and imprisonment. USCIRF’s Annual Report continues to draw attention to the worst abusers against people of faith and even no faith, and stands as one of the key resources for advocates and governments. We welcome the new report and hope the United States Government will follow its recommendations,” said Kelsey Zorzi, Director of Advocacy for Global Religious Freedom for ADF International.

Religious persecution is widespread

The 2020 Annual Report assesses religious freedom violations and progress during calendar year 2019 in 29 countries and makes independent recommendations for U.S. policy. USCIRF recommends that the U.S. Department of State designate China, Eritrea, India, Iran, Myanmar, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam as “countries of particular concern.” USCIRF also recommends that Afghanistan, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Central African Republic (CAR), Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Nicaragua, Sudan, Turkey, and Uzbekistan be placed on the State Department’s “Special Watch List.”

USCIRF noted that Sudan and Uzbekistan had made positive, although tentative, steps regarding religious freedom. In many other countries, however, religious freedom conditions deteriorated.

With the rise in religious persecution, advocates and governments have begun to increase their responses to the issue. In 2019, the “International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief” was observed for the first time. The day was created by the United Nations and experts consider it an important step towards the prevention of religious persecution in the future.

Similarly, the U.S. Department of State hosted the second Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in July 2019. The Ministerial highlighted the stories of those who have faced persecution and provided a forum for advocates and government officials to discuss goals and strategies to better protect religious minorities and those persecuted for their religion.

At the release of the 2020 Annual Report, USCIRF commended the U.S. Administration “for continuing to prioritize international religious freedom in 2019.”

Paul Coleman, Executive Director of ADF International, said: “The recent USCIRF report reminds us that around the world people are facing persecution because of their faith. Christians in particular face widespread and severe persecution. No one should turn a blind eye to the plight Christians are facing today, everyday.”