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India Is “Country Of Particular Concern”

| Updated: June 3, 2022 12:42

The US Commission for International Religious Freedom or USCIRF report recommended to the Biden administration to designate India, China, Pakistan, Afghanistan and 11 other nations as “countries of particular concern” in the context of religious freedom. The report was made public Thursday.

Mandated by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, the annual International Religious Freedom Report details the status of religious freedom in 200 foreign countries and territories and describes U.S. actions to support religious freedom worldwide.

Reading out the report, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, stated there has been rising attacks on people and places of worship in India, asserting that America will continue to stand up for religious freedom around the world.

US Secretary Of State, Antony Blinken

The annual report is compiled by the US State Department, based on inputs from their embassies located around the world. While concerns about rising violations of human rights in India are listed routinely in the annual editions of the report, they have never been mentioned orally by the top diplomat of the US state department – till now.

For probably the first time since the NDA government took over in 2014, India was also singled out in the speech delivered by the Secretary of State at the function this year.

In his remarks on Thursday, Blinken first named Taiwan, Timor-Leste, Iraq and Morocco as countries which have shown “notable progress” in protecting religious freedoms. He then cited examples from Myanmar, China, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Pakistan to highlight where “governments are failing to respect their citizens’ basic rights.” After that, Blinken observed that there were also substantial violations in other parts of the world, citing India at the start.

India figures in the count of countries where minorities are “unsafe.” Much like the previous report (2021), India has again rejected the findings of the current report. The section on India in the report said that attacks on minorities included incidents of vigilantism against non-Hindus based on allegations of cow slaughter or selling or possessing beef. The report said that 10 out of 28 states in the country have laws restricting religious conversions.

In the case of Vietnam, state authorities have been accused of harassing members of unregistered religious communities; in Nigeria, state governments stand charged with using anti-defamation and blasphemy laws to punish people for expressing their beliefs, Blinken said.

China, he said, continues to harass adherents of other religions that it deems out of line with the Chinese Communist Party doctrine, including by destroying Buddhist, Christian, Islamic and Taoist houses of worship and by erecting barriers to employment and housing for Christians, Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists and Falun Gong practitioners.

In Afghanistan, conditions for religious freedom have deteriorated dramatically under the Taliban, particularly as they crack down on the basic rights of women and girls to get an education, to work, to engage in society, often under the banner of religion, he said.

Meanwhile, ISIS-K is conducting increasingly violent attacks against religious minorities, particularly Shia Hazaras, he added. In Pakistan, at least 16 individuals accused of blasphemy were sentenced to death by Pakistani courts in 2021 though none of these sentences has yet to be carried out, Blinken added. Beyond these countries, the report documents how religious freedom and the rights of religious minorities are under threat in communities around the world. Blinken also underscored the fact that women were being targeted in Asian countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan and China.

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