2023 USCIRF report contains few surprises

By May 3, 2023

USA (MNN) — This year’s religious freedom report from the United States government contains few surprises. Top offenders and Countries of Particular Concern candidates include Afghanistan, China, India, Iran, Russia, and a dozen others.

“Every year, we put together a prayer map where Christians are persecuted, and all of these countries are on the prayer map,” Todd Nettleton with The Voice of the Martyrs USA says.

VOM’s compilation helps believers like you and me pray for and support our Christian brothers and sisters. Why does the U.S. government make a religious freedom list?

“The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom makes recommendations to the State Department about what to do [with] religious freedom violators – what countries should be designated Countries of Particular Concern, what types of sanctions those countries should face, [etc.],” Nettleton explains.

In theory, religious freedom drives U.S. foreign policy.

“Former U.S. Ambassador for Religious Freedom Sam Brownback talked about religious freedom as the first freedom. That’s where other freedoms begin; the freedom to choose what you believe,” Nettleton says.

However, putting theory into practice depends on who’s in charge. “Religious freedom was a more significant issue during the Trump administration than during the Biden administration,” Nettleton says.

“That kind of tone-setting comes down from the top; they (current government officials) don’t make as much noise about it as administrations that prioritize religious freedom.”

Former Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo and Ambassador-At-Large for Religious Freedom Sam Brownback at the International Religious Freedom Alliance dinner at the Department of State in Washington, D.C., on February 5, 2020. [State Department Photo by Ron Przysucha/ Public Domain]

State Department enactment also varies by foreign affairs priorities. “They never take (implement) all of the [USCIRF] recommendations,” Nettleton says.

“The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has one focus: promoting religious freedom worldwide. The State Department [has] other focuses; they have to maintain relationships with these countries. For instance, countries working with us against terrorism – do we want to offend them by calling out their religious freedom [violations]?”

Ask the Lord to use human endeavors to accomplish His purposes. Pray that persecuted Christians will trust God to work all things for their good.

If you live in the United States, “one of the ways to engage as you’re praying is to be sure that your government representatives know religious freedom is an issue you pay attention to,” Nettleton adds.

Find your elected officials here and share this story with them.

“They work for us as voters. We need to let them know, ‘This is a priority to me; I want to see religious minorities protected. I want to see religious freedom be a part of U.S. foreign policy.’”




Header image depicts a religious freedom statue in Virginia. (Image courtesy KG Hawes via Flickr)

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