Study Finds Few Improvements, New Concerns After Arab Spring

The U.S. State Department’s annual International Religious Freedom Report noted problems with religious freedom in many of the nations it tracked in previous reports: North Korea, China, Pakistan, Sudan, Nigeria and Vietnam, among others. The list of countries troubled by religious intolerance includes some nations allied with or supported by the United States. The report cited growing religious persecution in Arab Spring countries—Egypt, Tunisia and Libya—that have overthrown autocratic governments with American support. Even as these countries experienced at least nominally democratic transitions since 2011, the report notes that they have adopted restrictive new laws or carried out persecutions against minority faiths.

“The report chronicles discrimination and violence in countries ranging from established democracies to entrenched dictatorships,” said Secretary of State John Kerry, introducing the report at a press briefing on May 20. “It documents that governments around the globe continue to detain, imprison, torture and even kill people for their religious beliefs. In too many places, governments are also failing to protect minorities from social discrimination and violence.” The report identified global problems of discrimination and violence against religious groups, including Baha’is, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Christians, Muslims and Sikhs.

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Kerry said laws against blasphemy and apostasy are increasingly used “to repress dissent, to harass political opponents and to settle personal vendettas.” He said such laws “violate fundamental freedoms of expression and religion, and we believe they ought to be repealed.”

The State Department’s report included updates on “countries of particular concern”—Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan. In these states religious minorities experience “systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom...such as: torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; prolonged detention without charges; causing the disappearance of persons by the abduction or clandestine detention of those persons; or other flagrant denial of the right to life, liberty, or the security of persons.”

Religious freedoms declined in China last year, according to the report, a problem highlighted by punitive actions against Christians, Muslims and Buddhists in Tibet, where 82 monks, nuns or laypeople killed themselves in acts of self-immolation in 2012. The report tracked arrests in Saudi Arabia, which prohibits all faiths except Islam. In Pakistan blasphemy laws “have been abused to settle personal disputes and silence legitimate political discourse,” the report said. It cited the case of Rimsha Masih, a 14-year-old Christian girl who faced blasphemy charges last year that were dropped only after national and international protests.

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Christopher Rushlau
4 years 11 months ago
Can we count on receiving all press releases from the government? Can we get a weekly update on how well the Global War On Terror is going? The people in the pews need to know we're winning? Shoud we pray for success for John Kerry's mission to bring about a two-state solution between the Israelis and the Palestinians, so all the Palestinians can be ejected from Israel and Jesus can return in peace?
J Cosgrove
4 years 11 months ago
If one wants to keep up with what is happening around the world, you can not go to traditional media. Every week the John Batchelor Show covers in detail, the Middle East and North Africa, the War on Terror, East Asia with an emphasis on China. The show is on 7 days a week and four hours a day. The weekends are mainly book interviews. Monday will have a segment on the War on Terror, Wednesday is mainly on China, Thursday has a two hour segment on the Middle East. These same topics will be sprinkled through the rest of the week mixed in with US politics and social and economic issues. It is the most ecletic news/opinion show on the planet. http://www.johnbatchelorshow.com/ Last night had a segment which covered how Al Qaeda is stronger than ever and Zawahiri is overseeing the rebels in Syria and coordinating a new uprising in Iraq and working with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Zawahiri's brother lives and moves freely in Egypt. Meanwhile we have won the War on Terror.
Bob Baker
4 years 11 months ago
Arab Spring was nothing but a nom de guerre for Militant Islam to solidify or make inroads into taking over governments. This administration engaged in a lot of wishful thinking and loved the two words so they could pretend they were responsible for democratic reforms in the region - none of which happened.

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