As American are being attacked for their religious beliefs in U.S. political arenas on all sides, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken released a press statement – “Religious Freedom Designations” this week.
Governments and non-state actors “stifle individuals’ freedom of religion or belief to exploit opportunities for political gain,” reads the press release. “These actions sow division, undermine economic security, and threaten political stability and peace. The United States will not stand by in the face of these abuses.”
Blinken announced “designations against Burma, the People’s Republic of China, Cuba, Eritrea, Iran, Nicaragua, the DPRK, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan as Countries of Particular Concern under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 for having engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom,” states the press release.
Secretary Blinken also placed “Algeria, the Central African Republic, Comoros, and Vietnam on the Special Watch List for engaging in or tolerating severe violations of religious freedom.”
In addition, “…al-Shabab, Boko Haram, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Houthis, ISIS-Greater Sahara, ISIS-West Africa, Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin, the Taliban, and the Wagner Group based on its actions in the Central African Republic as Entities of Particular Concern,” further states the U.S. State Department’s press release.
“We welcome the opportunity to meet with all governments to address laws and practices that do not meet international standards and commitments, and to outline concrete steps in a pathway to removal from these lists,” stated Blinken.
Although the use of the “designation” characterization is not delineated in Blinken’s press statement, it is defined by Executive Order 13224 during President George W. Bush’s tenure.
The full 13224 Executive Order can be read here.