President Obama falls short in protectionist actions for world religious freedom
The U.S. Commision on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) noted in its recent 2010 annual report that President Obama has fallen short of doing what he can to lobby for the protection of religious freedom in the world.
The report noted that until now, President Obama has failed to appoint an Ambassador-At-Large for International Religious Freedom, a request that was made to him last month in a petition signed by lawmakers, scholars and human rights groups.
The same petition requested that the position be given equal level to other Ambassadors-At-Large who report directly to the Secretary of State, according to The Christian Post.
The USCIRF also noted that under Obama’s watch, no countries have been rated CPC, or “countries of particular concern” for having the worst religious violations.
Such a rating can prompt government action including trade restrictions, sanctions, embargoes, and withholding of military or financial aid, among others, The Christian Post said.
The same report said that the USCIRF, an independent US government commission, made these observations even as it said that with every year the issue becomes less and less important to the White House and the State Department.
The position of Ambassador-At-Large for International Religious Freedom, for example, was created in 1998, but it had only been filled in its initial year, and has remained vacant since 1999.
The commission warned Obama that failure to fill the position sent a message to the international community that religious freedom is not an important issue to the American government, the Christian Post said.
The same report noted that USCIRF took issue with the fact that Obama rarely mentioned religious freedom when he visited Ankara and Cairo last year.
Furthermore, Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton replaced the words religious freedom with “freedom of worship.”
The commission said authoritarian governments could skirt the issue by noting that faiths that are okay with them can freely worship.
They could also permit only token houses of worship for minority faiths.
According to CNN, the USCIRF also reported that:
* Over 24 countries are religious freedom offenders and practice religious persecution.
* Forms of religious persecution may include imprisonment, murder, being fired from jobs, and being kicked out of universities; being forbidden to have bank accounts, driver’s licenses and even birth certificates, among others.
* 13 countries should be rated CPC or “countries of particular concern” because they have the worst religious violations. These countries include Myanmar (Burma), China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Suda, Uzbekistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Turkmenistan and Vietnam.
* 12 countries on the watch list are Afghanistan, Belarus, Cuba, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Laos, Russia, Somalia, Tajikistan, Turkey and Venezuela.
* The report has five more countries under CPC rating than does the State Department’s 2009 report, which did not include Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Turkmenistan or Vietnam.
* 3 countries, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan and Sri Lanka, should be closely monitored.
* Egypt. Members of the Baha’I faith and minority Muslim sects are imprisoned, fired from jobs, kicked out of universities, and barred from having bank accounts, birth certificates and driver’s licenses.
* Nigeria. A decade of violence between Muslims and Christians in the Jos state recently culminated in 500 men, women and children hacked to death with machetes and dumped into wells.
* China. Cracked down on Uyghur Muslims in the west.
* Iran. Labeled domestic political opponents “enemies of God” which is a capital offense and can merit severing of the head.
* Eritrea. Harassment of Orthodox Church members and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
* Vietnam. Imprisonment of Buddhists and Protestants.
The USCIRF report urged the government to double its efforts to protect international religious freedom and to raise issues of abuse to the highest levels of the world community, the Christian Post said.
“Anything less betrays our history and values, and fails to leverage the extraordinary capacity we have as a nation to promote religious freedom and related human rights for all,” the report said.