uscirf2017

Banning of Jehovah’s Witnesses catapulted Russia to the list of shame.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) declared in its yearly report that the United States State Department must include Russia in its list of countries that commit the worst violations when it comes to religious freedom.

The USCIRF slammed Russia for its egregious and continuous religious intolerance. It added the country to the “countries of particular concern” list. The organization, in its report, has highlighted violent acts against individuals of faith all over the globe. It also urges Americans not to become immune to the huge amount of suffering a number of believers are forced to endure. Reverend Tomas Reese, chairman of this commission, in his interactions with the press, said that people should be reminded that such acts of violence are more than statistics and news stories. They are made of families and human beings. It is the aim of the commission to make such kind of facts more visible to the government officials, media personnel and the general population of the US.

Russia has banned Jehovah's Witnesses. Moscow has labeled them as an “extremist” organization and ordered the state machinery to seize properties. Tom Reese, the chairperson of USCIRF, and a Jesuit priest himself said that the Russian government treats Jehovah's Witnesses as terrorists. He added that the latter are pacifists and want to stay away from politics. The followers simply want to be left alone. The Russian Supreme Court, however, said that they are illegal.

The USCIRF publishes the list every year. It cites a comprehensive list of countries which is longer and more detailed than the list written up by the State Department. The commission published a dissenting report in 2017, criticizing itself for its failure to investigate Israel.

Russia is not the only country to be shamed in the USCIRF report. It has also named 15 other countries in 2017 under the “particular concern” heading. These include China, Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia. This report also elaborates on the violence made by a number of non-state actors like ISIS. It also berates government leaders in Europe for permitting Islamophobia and anti-Semitism to grow in their respective countries.

The list compiled by USCIRF in 2017 differs from its 2016 list with the Russia addition. However, the shocker comes in the form of the absence of two countries: Iraq and Egypt. This is surprising as Christians in these two countries are facing deadly attacks from Islamists. 

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