Some other countries we’ve touched upon, there’s many so let me hit some highlights.  The one country that we removed from our list was Bangladesh which came off our watch list, and that was for two reasons.  One, the elections that brought the Awami League into power occurred without the violence targeting religious minorities that we had seen in the 2001 election, and also the new Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, had promised protection of the freedom of religion and expression and equal treatment for members of religious minorities, as well as the repeal of discriminatory laws and regulations.  So those were positive steps we saw and the Commission decided to remove Bangladesh from the watch list.  Other countries that we had on going concerns were the Pakistan, which we have recommended as a CPC country for many years that the State Department continues to have a different opinion.  We decided the ongoing imprisonment on account of religion or belief for religious minorities or dissenting members of the majority Muslim population.  The government of Pakistan also continues to promote the problematic defamation of religion’s concept at the United Nations as part of its engagement under the organization of the Islamic conference which is in attempt to undermine protections for freedom of religion and expression at the international level.

Another country that we’ve followed up for sometime is Saudi Arabia.  It is a CPC country the State Department designated in 2004 and we’re concerned about a range of issues.  Some examples would be their textbooks, their curriculum and that espouses a worldview that indoctrinates hatred towards the other, towards non-Muslim religious groups or Shia Muslims and the government had committed to clean up its textbooks but we haven’t seen steps that would demonstrate that they’ve done that throughout or as completely as we think should happen.  Iran is another country that is a CPC that we believe that that’s the right call the state department has made.  In the past year, government redirect on actions worsen conditions for nearly all non-Shia religious groups most notably for Bahais as well as Sufi Muslims, evangelical Christians and members of the Jewish community.  And then in September 2008, the government launched an effort to institute a penal code that for the first time it legally enshrined the death penalty for apostasy which is deeply troubling.  A new addition to our CPC list was Nigeria, and it was a surprise to many.  Nigeria had been on our watch list for seven years due to the ongoing interreligious violence that had been occurring in the middle and northern sections of the country.  The commission made a trip to Nigeria in March and April this year to try to gather the facts to see, have a better understanding if progress is being made and our commissioners came back very concerned that there’s no commitment by the government to take really any steps to prevent future interreligious violence or to prosecute those Muslims or Christians who are engaged in it, and it has created a real cultural impunity.  Under the international Religious Freedom Act, a government can be designated as CPC for its actions but also for its inactions and we think it’s this inaction in all levels of government that to bring the perpetrators of violence to justice that is very concerning and warrants them to be a CPC country.

Viewed 6529