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Nigeria Among Nations Violating Religious Freedom--USCIRF

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An annual list of countries that names the worst violators of religious freedom expanded to include two new countries – Iraq and Nigeria – announced a U.S. government body over the weekend.

This year, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) recommended to the Obama administration a total of 13 countries that it should designate as “countries of particular concern” (CPCs).


Iraq was added in December because of the ongoing, severe abuses against minorities and the government's tolerance of the violence, particularly against Iraq's “smallest and most vulnerable” religious minorities, including Chaldo Assyrians and other Christian groups.


Nigeria, meanwhile, which has been on the commission's watch list for seven years, was recommended to

be a CPC because of evidence found by USCIRF during a recent trip to the country of the government's

toleration of “systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom and beliefs.”


Thousands of people have been killed, displaced or somehow affected by ongoing sectarian violence in

Nigeria, reported Commissioner Leonard Leo. The Nigerian government has also allowed destruction of

churches and mosques to go with impunity.

Though noteworthy, the addition of Iraq and Nigeria to USCIRF's annual report was not what drew the

most attention during the press conference announcing this year's list. Instead, the commission highlighted the dangerous situation in Pakistan, where Taliban extremists are strengthening and

expanding its grip.

The Taliban's growth in strength coupled with continuous persecution of religious minorities caused

the commission to renew its call for the State Department to designate Pakistan as a CPC.


“We are releasing this report at a critical time,” said Felice D. Gaer, chair of USCIRF, at the opening of the press conference on Friday. “With Taliban associated extremists advancing to within 60 miles of Pakistani capital Islamabad, the relevance of our work is crystal clear.


USCIRF is a bipartisan federal government commission that is in charge of advising the U.S. Administration and Congress on policies designed to protect and promote religious freedom in the

world. It was created by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRFA).


Included in this year's report, which covers the period from May 2008 through April, are: Burma, North

Korea, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, China, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan,

and Vietnam.
On the commission's Watch List, meanwhile, are Afghanistan, Belarus, Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia, Laos,

Russia, Somalia, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Venezuela.


The commission will travel to India next month to study how the world's largest democracy is promoting

religious freedom in light of the massive anti-Christian campaign affecting tens of thousands of people in its Orissa state. The group plans to release the chapter on India this summer after the trip.

Prince Charles Dickson With Agency Report

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