Burma, China Top List of Religious Persecutors

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America is once again shining a harsh light on regimes that persecute religious believers.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and State Department leader Michael Posner released the annual Report on International Religious Freedom, Wednesday.

China, Burma (Myanmar), Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan, were all listed as countries of concern for religious rights violations.

"We do this because we believe that religious freedom is both a fundamental human right and an essential element to any stable, peaceful, thriving society," Clinton said.

CBN News spoke with Tad Stahnke, director of policy and programs for Human Rights First, about the report and the countries listed.  Click play for his comments, following Paul Strand's report.

Also, click here for more insight on religious freedom violations with Scott Flipse, deputy director of policy for the U.S. Commision on International Religious Freedom.

Persecution often happens in the African nation of Eritrea, where many Christians are jailed and a number of prisoners have died from torture or poor conditions.

"Several hundred religious minority members are today in jail in very harsh conditions," Posner said.

The report also cited persecution in Somalia, where the powerful terrorist group al-Shabaab has assassinated Christians and others.

North Korea continues to imprison, torture and starve believers.

In Iraq, terrorists and extremists have been targeting and killing members of minority faiths, especially Christians.

The governments of Saudi Arabia, the Maldives and Iran all continue to persecute anyone not practicing their particular version of Islam.

Clinton blasted both government and private purveyors of persecution.

"Religious freedom is under threat from authoritarian regimes that abuse their own citizens," she said. "It is under threat from violent extremist groups that exploit and inflame sectarian tensions."

Promotion of religious freedom is a core objective of U.S. foreign policy, the State Department said in the report, adding that, "The right to believe or not to believe, without fear of government interference or restriction, is a basic human right."

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Paul  Strand

Paul Strand

CBN News Washington Sr. Correspondent

As senior correspondent in CBN's Washington, D.C., bureau, Paul Strand has covered a variety of political and social issues, with an emphasis on defense, justice, and Congress.  Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulStrandCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/PaulStrandCBN.