WASHINGTON (BP) -- Two more countries -- Turkey and Tajikistan -- are worthy of inclusion on a list of the world's worst violators of religious liberty, a congressionally approved watchdog on the issue has recommended.
In its annual report, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) urged the State Department to designate the two governments as "countries of particular concern" (CPCs), which is reserved for regimes that participate in or tolerate "particularly severe" violations of religious liberty. If added by the State Department, Turkey and Tajikistan would increase the number of CPCs to 10.
But it appears unlikely the State Department will embrace both recommendations. As of last year, the department had designated only eight countries as CPCs of a total of 14 recommended by USCIRF, which advises the White House, State Department and Congress on the condition of religious freedom overseas.
'Turkish officials meddle in (religious groups') internal government and education and limit their worship rights.'
-- USCIRF report
The commission released its 2012 report March 20, only two days before a new law forced five of its nine members off the panel. USCIRF's reauthorization, enacted in December, mandates term limits for commissioners. Among those whose service ended was Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
In explaining its recommendation of Turkey for the CPC list, USCIRF pointed to the government's refusal to recognize legally such non-Muslim minority communities as Protestant and Roman Catholic churches, Jews, and Greek, Armenian and Syriac Orthodox churches.
"Furthermore, Turkish officials meddle in these communities' internal government and education and limit their worship rights," according to USCIRF.
Only five of nine commissioners voted for Turkey's CPC designation.
Tajikistan deserves CPC status because of government repression of all religious activities it does not control, USCIRF reported. The regime's policies primarily impact the majority Muslim community, but it also targets such minorities as Protestants and Jehovah's Witnesses, according to USCIRF. The Tajikistan government closed 50 unregistered mosques early last year.
Reporting on global conditions, USCIRF said religious liberty "was under escalating attack" during the last year. "To an alarming extent, freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief was being curtailed, often threatening the safety and survival of innocent persons, including members of religious minorities," according to USCIRF's report.
Among the abuses cited by the commission were:
-- Egypt's refusal to protect religious minorities, especially Coptic Christians, from violence.
-- Iran's continued arrest, torture and execution of its citizens, with Christians, Bahai'is and Sufi Muslims targets of mistreatment. Read More