USCIRF annual report expands countries of particular concern.
Russia’s ongoing crackdown on religious minorities, foreign missionaries, and evangelists has earned it a spot among the worst countries in the world for religious freedom.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which flags religious freedom violators for the State Department, listed the former Soviet state among six new Tier 1 “countries of particular concern” (CPC) in its latest annual report, released Wednesday.
It is the first time in the commission’s almost 20-year history that Russia has made the list. A total of 16 countries currently hold the CPC designation, and another dozen are being reviewed as Tier 2.
Russia is the only country whose repression of religious freedom has intensified and expanded since USCIRF began monitoring it, officials said. The report dedicated seven pages to its problematic policies, from the “persecution of religious minorities in the occupied areas of Crimea and Donbas” to recent moves against non-Orthodox Christians in its heartland.
Last week, Russia’s Supreme Court officially banned Jehovah’s Witnesses nationwide after several years of blacklisting their materials and shutting down regional centers.
“The Jehovah’s Witnesses’ right to religious freedom is being eliminated through a flawed application of this law,” which labels the pacifist organization an extremist group, said Thomas Reese, USCIRF chair and a Catholic priest. The commission recommended the US government urge Russia to amend the law to add criteria preventing it from being used against peaceful groups.
Additionally, the commission wants to see more pressure put on Russian officials over repressive application of other laws, including …