- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 28, 2020

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom on Tuesday recommended the federal government add India, Russia and Syria to its list of countries egregiously violating religious freedom.

The USCIRF, a bipartisan commission of the federal government, requested five countries be designated as “countries of particular concern” by the State Department under the International Religious Freedom Act: India, Nigeria, Russia, Syria and Vietnam. Countries already on this list include China, Iran and North Korea.

“[W]e also urge the administration to discontinue the repeated imposition of preexisting sanctions or waivers for CPC-designated countries, and instead, take a unique action for each country to provide accountability for religious freedom abuses,” Gayle Manchin, USCIRF vice chair, said in a statement.

The commission’s 2020 annual report called for “targeted sanctions on Indian government agencies and officials responsible for severe violations of religious freedom by freezing those individuals’ assets and/or barring their entry into the United States under human-rights related financial and visa authorities, citing specific freedom violations.”

The report said India’s national party used its greater parliamentary majority to enact policies violating religious freedom, notably for Muslims.

Mrs. Manchin, wife of Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, praised the Trump administration’s addition of a senior staff position at the White House to examine international religious freedom and for routing funding toward protecting places of worship around the world.

The commission’s annual report showed Sudan and Uzbekistan making improvements in the realm of religious freedom, but India taking a sharp downward turn.

“Sudan stands out, demonstrating that new leadership with the will to change can quickly bring tangible improvements,” said USCIRF Chair Tony Perkins in a statement. “Uzbekistan also made important progress in 2019 toward fulfilling the commitments it made to allow religious groups greater freedom. Though other countries deteriorated, particularly India, we see international religious freedom on an upward trajectory overall.”

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