2021 USCIRF report contains few surprises

By April 23, 2021

International (MNN) — There are many layers to foreign policy. One of those layers is religious liberty, and as a nation founded on religious liberty, the United States has a critical relationship with that principle. Enter the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

“Under our mandate in the International Religious Freedom Act, or IRFA, we issue a report each year with recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State and Congress,” USCIRF Chair Gayle Manchin says.

There were few surprises in this year’s report. China came up so often we’re spotlighting it in a future newscast. Nigeria rose as another major threat. Even though the USCIRF recommended Nigeria each year since 2009, the U.S. State Department did not designate Nigeria as a County of Particular Concern (CPC) until last year.

Indiscriminate attacks by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram in Northern Nigeria are causing immense suffering. A violent campaign is being waged against innocent civilians who are being killed, chased, enrolled or enslaved.
(Photo, caption ©EC/ECHO/Anouk Delafortrie via Flickr)

“If Uganda is the pearl of Africa, Nigeria is a diamond in the rough,” USCIRF Commissioner Jim Carr says.

“Nigeria is competing very quickly to be the worst of the worst. They’re in competition with China and Iran and North Korea.”

The report also highlighted 2020 trends leading to religious persecution.

“The most prominent global story of 2020 was a COVID pandemic. Governments took sweeping action to protect individuals and communities, including imposing restrictions that impacted the practice of one’s religion and faith,” USCIRF Vice Chair Anurima Bhargava says.

Manchin states in a press release, “USCIRF will continue to monitor how countries respond to and recover from COVID-19, and whether the loosening of restrictions is fair to people of all faiths and nonbelievers.”

Christians face persecution in most of the 26 countries highlighted by the USCIRF. Find details, recent headlines, and prayer needs from each country below.

World’s worst religious freedom violators

In its annual report, the USCIRF divided its recommendations for 26 nations into two categories: “countries of particular concern” and “special watch list.” While these correspond with State Department designations, we’re grouping the countries by alphabetical order:



“Religious Liberty” was commissioned by B’nai B’rith and dedicated in 1876 to “the people of the United States” as an expression of support for the constitutional guarantee of religious freedom.  (Wikimedia Commons)