Thu 27 June 2019:
Secretary of State calls out China, Iran, Myanmar, Russia for violating religious freedom
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo rolled out the State Department’s report on religious freedom Friday, saying it found a “chilling array of abuses” on religion last year. Pompeo called out China, Iran, and Russia for religious freedom violations, as well as Myanmar for its oppression of Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine state. According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community beginning in August 2017.
The UN has documented mass gang rapes, killings — including of infants and young children — brutal beatings and disappearances committed by Myanmar state forces. The report, which documented the countries in 2018, also added a separate section on China’s persecution of Uyghur Muslims, saying that “history will not be silent about these abuses.” The State Department moved up Uzbekistan in their report this year, moving from being a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) to being placed on a special watch list after making significant progress in religious freedom.
The CPC list is comprised of countries that have the lowest records of religious freedom and are subject to U.S. sanctions. It was created from the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, enacted by Congress as a foreign policy tool to raise awareness about religious freedom violations around the globe. Pompeo, however, made no mention of Saudi Arabia, which is also on the CPC list. When asked about Saudi Arabia, Sam Brownback, the U.S. ambassador on religious freedom, told reporters that the country “continues to be one of the worst actors in the world on religious persecution.” The State Department will be hosting the second annual Ministerial on Religious Freedom in mid-July, according to Pompeo.
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