Religious freedom has not yet surfaced on the Bush administration’s shortlist of non-negotiable requirements for a post-Saddam Iraq as Iraq begins the process of drafting a new constitution. The new draft constitution of Afghanistan omits the individual right of non secular freedom altogether and paves the means for a judicial theocracy. This mistake made in the new draft constitution of Afghanistan should be avoided. The USCIRF has made its 2020 Annual Report on international freedom of religion and it is now available to the public. Some confusion has been created concerning the publication by various news reports, with some referring to it as “the 2020 report” while others as “the 2019 report”.
Religious freedom is the right for a person to believe or not believe as one’s conscience leads, and live out one’s belief peacefully without fear. Religious freedom also includes the freedom of thought, association, assembly, expression, and conscience. Though religious freedom is America’s first right, it is also recognized as a necessary component of U.S foreign policy and America’s commitment to defending democracy and freedom globally. Religious freedom is a vital element of national security, critical to ensuring a more prosperous, peaceful, secured, and stable world.
USCIRF on Religious freedom
USCIRF stands for the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom which is created by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998. The duties of USCIRF includes
- USCIRF issues an Annual Report by May 1st every year. The report recommends countries that should be designated as CPC, assess the U.S government’s implementation of IRFA, etc.
- USCIRF documents religious freedom conditions abroad by meeting representatives of non-governmental organizations, senior government officials, and others.
- Engages congress by working together with Congressional offices.
- USCIRF issues report with Press Releases, Journal Articles, Policy Prescriptions, and Op-Eds.
- Engages multilaterally in meetings related to freedom of religion and tolerance.
To gather information about the status of religious freedom within some countries, the members of the USCIRF has carefully reviewed a selected number of nations during the year. Along with placing them on a Special Watch List (SWL) or recommending for listing nations as Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) , the commission releases its findings to the U.S State Department. The 2020 Annual Report on international freedom of religion also includes the assessments of 29 nations.
Religious freedom worldwide
A report on religious freedom worldwide aims to “unflinchingly criticize the records both US allies and adversaries alike”. The USCIRF chair Tony Perkins told CT that the awareness is going greater and the problem will appear more pronounced. He also added that there will be tremendous progress in the next few years if the present course stays and the work on it continues. Freedom of religion is being more frequently challenged across the world and this is not a good news, said Graz.
Countries of Particular concerns are nations “where the government tolerates or engages in particularly severe violations of religious freedom that are systemic, ongoing, and egregious”.