Commission Cites 13 Nations as Religious Violators

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A U.S. government commission has turned the spotlight on countries that restrict religious freedom.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, or USCIRF, is a group commissioned by Congress. It releases its list of worst persecutors every year.

This year, the group named 13 countries including the African nation of Nigeria.

In March, near Jos, Nigeria, more than 200 people were killed in violence between Christians and Muslims. Most of those who perished were Christians.

Click play for more analysis with CBN News International Correspondent Gary Lane, following George Thomas' report.

"We don't know where to run to now," said Christian villager Gladys Uwrim. "So we keep all things to God. Whether we survive or not, pray for us."

Mack Litbo is a Christian church leader whose village was destroyed in the attack.

"As you can see a lot of houses have been burned and we have seen a lot of people displaced," Litbo said.

But the Nigerian Christians are not alone. Across the globe, millions of people of faith are being persecuted, harassed, and sometimes killed for their beliefs.

"The incursions on religious freedom are across the board," said Leonard Leo, chair of the USCIRF. "It affects Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and lots of religious minorities all over the world."

This week, the USCIRF pointed out 13 countries that it says are "hot spots," where religious freedoms are being seriously violated.

"They engage in a number of activities that punish people for their religious beliefs and that restrict their ability to worship and practice their faiths," Leo said.

Among the countries designated as the worst violators include some of America's key allies, such as China, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Some of the other offenders are Eritrea, North Korea, Sudan, Nigeria and Uzbekistan.

Thirteen additional countries were also placed on a watch list status. They include, Afghanistan, Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia and Somalia.

"Watch list countries are countries that don't meet the congressional standards for being countries of particular concern, but nevertheless have serious problems regarding the protection of freedom of religion," Leo added.

Since 1998, the bipartisan U.S. panel has presented Congress with its annual report on the state of religious freedom around the world.

The goal was to encourage the President, Secretary of State and Congress to focus on those suffering for their faith.

"Neither prior Democratic and Republican administrations, nor the current administration, have been sufficiently engaged in promoting the freedom of religion or belief abroad," the USCIRF stated.

"It is always frustrating that our government doesn't do enough to make freedom of religion a part of our foreign policy agenda," Leo said.

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