WASHINGTON — Although millions of religious minorities have been displaced, killed or enslaved in Iraq and Syria due to the "systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations" of religious freedom carried out by the Islamic State, other militant groups and the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, both nations were absent from the State Department's list of countries of particular concern announced last Friday.
During a Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission hearing on Capitol Hill Tuesday, David Saperstein, a Rabbi who heads the State Department's Office of International Religious Freedom, was asked by the commission's co-chair, Rep. Joe Pitts, R-Penn., what his office's stance is on Iraq and Syria being left of the list.
As the country of particular concern designation was created under the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act, Saperstein explained that Iraq was left off the list because the statute requires for actual governments to be the violators of the "systematic, ongoing, egregious violations" of religious freedom. more >>
The United States government has again refused to designate Pakistan as a "country of particular concern" for the 14th year in a row despite the fact that religious persecution in the country is reaching ever higher levels.
State Department spokesman John Kirby announced last Friday that Tajikistan has been added to the United States' list of "countries of particular concern," a list created under the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA). Tajikistan joins nations like Saudi Arabia, North Korea, China, Eritrea, Iran, Sudan and Uzbekistan as some of the worst religious freedom violators in the world.
Kirby gave little explanation as to why those countries made the list and others did not. However, the fact that Pakistan was left off the list ignores the recommendation from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, which is a government commission created by the IRFA. USCIRF has called on the U.S. government to label Pakistan as a country of particular concern every year since 2002. more >>
A pair of suspected Hindu radicals attacked and beat a pastor and his pregnant wife at a church in Chhattisgarh, India, and then set a Bible and other articles inside the church on fire.
PTI reported that the men had initially identified themselves as members of another Christian denomination, and were allowed inside the Bastar church due to their desire to pray on Sunday night. After they came in, however, they beat the pastor and his wife before pouring inflammable liquid on the Bible, setting it and other religious material ablaze.
Arun Pannalal, president of Chhattisgarh's Christian Forum, claimed that the two attackers, armed with a knife, hammer, and sword, are members of a radical Hindu organization. more >>
A Christian house church leader and his wife were buried alive in China's central Henan province for protesting against the government-ordered demolition of their church, and while the man managed to escape, his wife suffocated to death.
China Aid reported on the grisly news on Monday, noting the tragedy occurred last week at Beitou Church in Zhumadian, Henan province. Communist government authorities reportedly ordered the demolition of the church after Li Jiangong, the person in charge of the church, and his wife, Ding Cuimei, refused to hand over the church grounds to a local developer.
The husband and wife decided to try and stop the demolition and stepped in front of the bulldozing crew, but were purposefully shoved into a pit, where a bulldozer covered their bodies with soil. more >>
A radical Islamic jihadi-turned-Christian evangelist says he accepted Christ as his Savior after Jesus foiled his plot to kill the daughter of a Christian pastor by bringing his hand down from Heaven to give her blood.
Al-Rashid, a former commander of a radical terrorist group in the Middle East, recently told Assist News Service all about how he went from being the leader of a Christian-hunting militant outfit to becoming a full-fledged Christian evangelist.
As reports of numerous Muslim conversions to Christianity enraged Rashid over the years, he explained that he was inspired to form a special terrorist task force designed to hunt down Christian leaders who are converting Muslims away from Islam. more >>
Pope Francis, who returned from Greece with 12 Syrian Muslim refugees, on Sunday spoke of a Syrian Christian "martyr" who was murdered by terrorists for refusing to renounce her faith, in a speech in St Peter's Square.
"He is Muslim, and he told me that he married a Christian girl," the Pope said, of one of the more than 300 Syrian refugees he met on the Aegean island of Lesbos in Greece on Saturday, according to Sky News. "They loved each other and respected each other."
The pope continued, "But unfortunately the young woman's throat was slashed by terrorists because she didn't want to deny Christ and abandon her faith." more >>