International (MNN) — A new report tomorrow highlights the countries most guilty of restricting religious freedom.
“It’s kind of a list of the usual suspects,” says Todd Nettleton of Voice of the Martyrs USA.
Tomorrow, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) will release its annual Reports and Recommendations for World’s Most Egregious Violators of Religious Freedom. See the 2019 release here.
Nettleton expects the report to focus on the usual governments most responsible for squelching religious freedom. Countries like North Korea, Iran, Pakistan, and Burma made the list last year.
But Nettleton will be interested to see how the report frames two others: China and India. He says of China, “Think about pastor Wang Yi. The day after Christmas [he was] sentenced to nine years in prison, the longest prison sentence we’ve seen for a Han Chinese pastor in several years. [That] seems to be yet another sign that things are going the wrong direction for religious freedom in China.” Read more about Pastor Wang Yi here.
Of India, Nettleton says, “Some of the things that have happened in Kashmir, and some of the things that have happened with regard to citizenship tests in India in the last year, [will make it] interesting to see how the commission addresses those.” Read more here.
Will it help?
Will this report change anything? Possibly, Nettleton says. USCIRF releases its finding to the State Department. “They have to decide what to do about it. They actually designate countries of particular concern, and then that plays into our foreign policy interactions with those countries. This is kind of the first step in that process of our US government making religious freedom an issue in our foreign policy.”
“It certainly can have teeth,” he says. “It sometimes doesn’t, though.” He remains unsure how much attention the report will garner with the COVID-19 pandemic still dominating headlines.
How you can help
Nettleton says one way Americans can get involved is by paying attention to how political candidates talk about religious freedom. Do they support freedom of religion for all people? Do they treat it as an important issue?
“This annual report can serve as kind of a guidebook to our prayers,” Nettleton says. All of these countries have Christians, and many face severe restrictions. Pray that Christ will shine on these brothers and sisters, and that this report will motivate action.
UNCIRF keeps track of which countries abuse their citizens freedom to practice any religion they see fit. (Photo courtesy of Voice of the Martyrs USA on Facebook)