Humanity is experiencing an "emergency" period. If on the one hand the WHO has declared the Covid-19 emergency over, on the other hand the emergency pitting Ukraine and NATO on one side and Russia on the other side with the bugbear of nuclear conflict as a backdrop continues. If this were not enough, the financial emergency has re-exploded with the failure of some banking giants such as Silicon Valley Bank, Credit Suisse, First Republic Bank to name a few in recent months. All of this could obscure and divert attention from another emergency that deeply affects millions of individuals around the world, often with fatal outcomes: the emergency of religious persecution. USCIRF reminded us of this with the following article.
USCIRF Documents 2,000 Victims, Calls Attention to Millions Persecuted for Religion or Belief
Washington, DC – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today surpassed 2,000 individuals included in its Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) Victims List, a database that catalogues victims who have been detained, imprisoned, placed under house arrest, disappeared, forced to renounce their faith, or tortured for their religious belief, religious activity, or religious freedom advocacy. While this development represents a tragic milestone, USCIRF calls attention to the millions of other unknown victims around the world who continue to face severe oppression for their religion or belief.
“Shockingly, people all across the world face prosecution, prison time, state-sanctioned extrajudicial acts, and other forms of punishment for peacefully exercising their freedom of religion or belief and defending others’ rights to religious freedom,” said Chair Nury Turkel. “By documenting these cases, USCIRF shares the horrific stories of not only those individuals experiencing severe violations of their fundamental right to freedom of religion or belief but also of the millions of others who are forced to live under the tyranny of religious repression.”
USCIRF has regularly documented gross religious freedom violations, including mass internment and genocide. In China, Communist Party officials have unjustly detained or imprisoned millions of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims, in addition to Tibetan Buddhists, Falun Gong practitioners, House Church Protestants, and underground Catholics. Amid ongoing protests over mandatory religious headscarf laws, Iran has arrested many religious minority group members – particularly Baha’is – as well as opponents of the government’s religious restrictions. In the year since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russian forces have abducted Ukrainian religious leaders while other authorities have continued to impose lengthy prison sentences on Jehovah’s Witnesses and Muslims. Uzbekistan continues to jail some 2,000 Muslims for their independent religious practices, and India has subjected human rights defenders and journalists to extensive periods of pre-trial detention for their work documenting religious freedom violations.
“The U.S. government must support victims and their families, push for the release of religious prisoners of conscience, and hold accountable those governments and officials that perpetrate or tolerate these egregious religious freedom violations,” said Vice Chair Abraham Cooper. “USCIRF will continue to put a human face on these largely unknown victims and call for justice for those individuals targeted on the basis of their religion or belief.”
In December 2022, USCIRF released a FoRB Victims List Factsheet that provided an overview of the FoRB Victims List, including its congressional mandate and criteria for including persons on the list. Individuals and organizations with credible information on victims can submit that information through the FoRB Victims List Intake Form.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze, and report on religious freedom abroad. USCIRF makes foreign policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress intended to deter religious persecution and promote freedom of religion and belief. To interview a commissioner, please contact USCIRF at mediauscirf.gov (media[at]uscirf[dot]gov)