WASHINGTON — A religious freedom watchdog panel has added
Egypt to its list of the worst violators of religious liberty, citing attacks on
Coptic Christians that occurred surrounding the downfall of former President
“The Egyptian government engaged in and tolerated religious
freedom violations both before and after President Hosni Mubarak stepped down
on Feb. 11,” said Leonard Leo, chairman of the bipartisan U.S. Commission on
International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which released its report April 28.
“In his waning months, religious freedom conditions were
rapidly deteriorating and since his departure, we’ve seen nothing to indicate that
these conditions have improved.”
Members of the independent commission also continued their
criticism of the Obama administration for not making religious freedom a higher
“President Obama’s administration has yet to break from the
practice of previous administrations of keeping the issue of religious freedom
on the margins of U.S. foreign policy,” the report states.
Leo acknowledged the recent confirmation of Suzan Johnson Cook
as the new ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom and said he
hopes it will lead to “meaningful actions” in the near future.
Commissioners, who are appointed by the president and
members of Congress, listed a total of 14 countries that they recommend the
State Department designate as “countries of particular concern.” The department
currently lists eight such countries, a number that remains unchanged since
President George W. Bush left office.
Countries on the State Department’s list include Burma,
In addition to Egypt,
USCIRF says the list should also include Iraq,
State Department spokesman Evan Owen differed with the
commission’s analysis, saying his department issues reports on both religious
freedom and anti-Semitism, and now has special envoys for both areas. He said the
department will consider USCIRF’s recommendations as it weighs updating its
list of the worst violators of religious freedom.
“It’s a long process and with the appointment of an
ambassador for religious freedom, we expect it to be a more streamlined process
in the future,” he said.
Commissioners continue to hope that Pakistan and other
nations will rescind anti-blasphemy laws that they believe lead to violent
violations of religious freedom. The panel’s 379-page report was dedicated to Shahbaz
Bhatti, a Pakistani minister for religious minorities who was assassinated in
March after challenging such laws.
is arguably the most glaring omission to the State Department’s CPC
list, as the government is both responsible for and tolerates egregious
violations of religious freedom,” said Commissioner Nina Shea.
USCIRF also designates “watch list countries,” nations whose
violations do not merit a listing as the worst offenders but nevertheless
require monitoring. This year’s list includes Afghanistan, Belarus, Cuba,
India, Indonesia, Laos, Russia, Somalia, Tajikistan, Turkey and Venezuela.
(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical
Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new
Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank
you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or
issues with items we run, please contact [email protected]
or call 919-847-2127.)