US adds Pak, China to its blacklist for religious freedom violations
The Trump Administration on Tuesday designated Pakistan, China, Saudi Arabia and seven others as countries of particular concern for having engaged in or tolerated "systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom." Simultaneously, the Trump Administration also designated al-Nusra Front, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Qaeda, al-Shabab, Boko Haram, the Houthis, ISIS, ISIS-Khorasan, and the Taliban as Entities of Particular Concern.
"On November 28, 2018, I designated Burma (Myanmar), China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan, as Countries of Particular Concern under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 for having engaged in or tolerated "systematic, ongoing, (and) egregious violations of religious freedom," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday.
"I also placed Comoros, Russia, and Uzbekistan on a Special Watch List for governments that have engaged in or tolerated 'severe violations of religious freedom'," Pompeo said in a statement.
Observing that in far too many places across the globe, individuals continue to face harassment, arrests, or even death for simply living their lives in accordance with their beliefs, Pompeo asserted that the US will not stand by as spectators in the face of such oppression.
Protecting and promoting international religious freedom is a top foreign policy priority of the Trump Administration, he said.
"In July, I hosted the first-ever Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, which brought together some 85 like-minded governments and more than 400 civil society organisations to harness global attention and motivate forceful action to advance respect for the human right of religious freedom," he added.
Asserting that safeguarding religious freedom is vital to ensuring peace, stability, and prosperity, Pompeo said that these designations are aimed at improving the lives of individuals and the broader success of their societies.
"I recognise that several designated countries are working to improve their respect for religious freedom; I welcome such initiatives and look forward to continuing the dialogue," Pompeo said.
The US remains committed to working with governments, civil society organisations, and religious leaders to advance religious freedom around the world, he added.