The US Department of State announced that the Secretary re-designated Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan as Countries of Particular Concern on Dec. 22, 2017. The Secretary also placed Pakistan on a Special Watch List for severe violations of religious freedom, announced US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert.
“In far too many places around the globe, people continue to be persecuted, unjustly prosecuted, or imprisoned for exercising their right to freedom of religion or belief,” Nauert said in a statement, adding, “Today, a number of governments infringe upon individuals’ ability to adopt, change, or renounce their religion or belief, worship in accordance with their religion or beliefs, or be free from coercion to practice a particular religion or belief.”
Nauert said that in accordance with the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, the Secretary of State annually designates governments that have engaged in or tolerated systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom as “Countries of Particular Concern”.
The protection of religious freedom is vital to peace, stability, and prosperity, according to Nauert, who said these designations are aimed at improving the respect for religious freedom in these countries.
“We recognize that several designated countries are working to improve their respect for religious freedom; we welcome these initiatives and look forward to continued dialogue. The United States remains committed to working with governments, civil society organizations, and religious leaders to advance religious freedom around the world,” Nauert said.