The intersection of humanitarian crises, conflicts and religious persecution was highlighted in a new report from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).
USCIRF “recommended that the United States designate all five of these nations – Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Central African Republic and Burma – as ‘countries of particular concern'” (CPC).
A CPC is “any country whose government engages in or tolerates particularly severe violations of religious freedom that are systematic, ongoing and egregious.”
The report cited “the horrific loss of human life, freedom and dignity that has accompanied the chaos” in these regions as the basis for their conclusions.
The Islamic State has persecuted all religious traditions in Iraq and Syria that do not adhere to its ideology.
The group “has unleashed waves of terror upon Yazidis and Christians, Shi’a and Sunnis as well as others who have dared to oppose its extremist views,” the report said.
Boko Haram has been equally ruthless with dissenting religious traditions, persecuting both Christians and Muslims in Nigeria.
“Boko Haram exploits sectarian fissures to manipulate religious tensions and destabilize Nigeria,” the report said, while also criticizing the Nigerian government for failing to intervene in substantive ways.
The Central African Republic is embroiled in a conflict between militias. The report called the majority-Muslim SÃ©lÃ©ka attacks on non-Muslim individuals and churches “crimes against humanity,” while the majority non-Muslim anti-balaka attacks on Muslim individuals, homes and mosques were labeled “ethnic cleansing.”
Segments of the Buddhist community in Burma have persecuted religious and ethnic minorities with little government response.
Rohingya Muslims have endured “a unique level of discrimination, disenfranchisement and the denial of basic rights,” USCIRF reported, while Christians in the Kachin and Chin States have also endured significant persecution.
As a result, “140,000 Rohingya Muslims and at least 100,000 largely Kachin Christians remain internally displaced.”
Twelve additional nations were also designated as CPCs by USCIRF – China, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.
“All nations should care about abuses beyond their borders not only for humanitarian reasons but because what goes on in other nations rarely remains there,” the report said. “Standing for the persecuted against the forces of violent religious extremism is not just a moral imperative; it is a practical necessity for any country seeking to protect its security and that of its citizens.”
The full USCIRF report, which includes a nation-by-nation assessment of CPCs, is available here.