International (MNN) ― The U.S. State Department released the "Annual Report on International Religious Freedom," detailing the world's worst offenders of religious rights.
The most oppressive were put on a list labeled "Countries of Particular Concern." They are chronic, long-term violators of religious freedom: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan.
Carl Moeller with Open Doors USA says while the awareness brought about by this report's annual release is good, "There are some significant gaps that we should focus on, in cooperation with the State Department, to help advance the cause of religious freedom globally."
Most notably are the countries which are absent. "The Congressional Commission on International Religious Freedom says they recommended Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam to be on that list." And from that notorious grouping, "We would also discuss Somalia, even though the reality is there is that it's a failed state--difficult to apply any sanctions to basically a place that's so chaotic, yet really, a glaring omission."
Pakistan made international headlines this year for assassinations of government heads that were sympathetic to Christian, and especially outspoken on behalf of the use of the blasphemy law. The report cited the case of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman under the death sentence for her conviction in her trumped up case.
The criteria used for determining the list seems to be unequally applied. Moeller explains, "It is a political environment because two countries out of the eight that are designated as Countries of Particular Concern, we do not apply the sanctions implicit in the law: Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan."
However, Moeller points out, the omission isn't lost on the world stage. In fact, it could cost the United States credibility in the long run. "We should encourage our law makers and our law implementers in the executive branch to carry out the laws of this country. The reason the law was passed was to use the great and good influence of the United States for the values that the United States was founded on."
While no new countries were added to the 13th annual report, neither were any removed. The report has had roughly the same players since 2009. That doesn't mean things are better for those caught afoul of anti-Christian sentiment. "These countries all represent heinous places for Christians to try and live out their Christian faith. If we are going to stand with the church that is standing literally against the gates of hell in these situations, we need to become informed on the conditions that they face."
Open Doors provides many tools to educate yourself on what's going on in the CPCs. They also have detailed information on the scenario facing Kingdom work in the countries that weren't listed but have troubling records. Click here.