USA (MNN) — The United States government released its annual International Religious Freedom Report yesterday. According to one Christian persecution watch ministry, there isn't a lot of new information. Also, the report was absent a new list.
Advocacy Director for Open Doors USA Lindsay Vessey says, "The Countries of Particular Concern has yet to be nominated. Now sometimes they release the report and then they make those designations later. But what's particularly concerning is that the last designations for these countries were made in January 2009, which means they're expiring this January."
Vessey says she's also concerned about something else. "They haven't really designated anything different for several years. They kind of keep stating the same ones. We haven't seen really any additions."
Those that make 'the list' are supposed to get U.S. attention. "They're supposed to work with these countries to improve that state of religious freedom. They can do things like impose different kinds of sanctions, and they can work together to make an agreement to improve religious freedom. But not a whole lot of news things have been done."
It's not very likely that will be done anytime soon because the Ambassador At Large for International Religious Freedom, Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook, has been nominated but isn't even in place yet. Vessey says, "The Obama administration waited well over a year to nominate someone. And [Cook's] confirmation hearing actually happened just (Wednesday). So we'll see if she gets confirmed. But then, is her first act going to be to nominate countries of particular concern? Not likely."
Vessey says there seems to be disparity even for those under sanctions. "It's interesting because the State Department is willing to put sanctions on countries like Eritrea, but maybe less willing to apply that pressure on a country such as Saudi Arabia or a country like China, who are also countries of particular concern."
Many wonder if Afghanistan and Pakistan will be added to the list of Particular Concern. Vessey says, "In Pakistan, we see a real abuse of the blasphemy laws as well as the first woman sentenced to death. Just this last week, a Christian woman [was sentenced] basically for standing up for her faith — encountering pressure from Muslim women to convert to Islam."
Vessey says religious freedom issues have improved in China, where it appears Buddhists and Christians have a bit more freedom to meet openly. The report also suggested improvement in Indonesia, despite the 28 churches that were forced to close by extremists.
Pray for believers in many nations around the world who suffer daily for their walk with Christ. Click here to see the complete report.