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Relatives mourn for a Christian couple burned alive for blasphemy.

List of worst countries for religious freedom released

A new report lists the worst countries for religious persecution. The 2018 report was released this week and calls out 16 countries by name with the moniker “Countries of Particular Concern” and recommends they be considered for sanctions in an effort to end their “systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom.”

But Chairman Daniel Mark says there are six additional countries that USCIRF recommended for CPC designation with one needing immediate attention.

That list includes Central African Republic, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Syria, and Vietnam.

Although Mark said that it’s important to send a message to Russia since it’s such “a player” on the world stage, he explained that “what we have said for many years is that Pakistan is the worst country in the world that is not designated as a CPC.”

“Pakistan is a world leader in imprisonments and convictions and prosecutions for blasphemy and apostasy and those sorts of things,” Mark said.

Mark added that Pakistan is a “world leader” when it comes to imprisonments, prosecutions and convictions for crimes such as apostasy and blasphemy. Under section 295-C of Pakistan’s penal code, certain forms of blasphemy can be punishable with life in prison or capital punishment.

Mark warned that in Pakistan there is a seeming “culture of impunity” continuing to grow when it comes to things like blasphemy and apostasy laws.

“[There are] vigilante mobs attacking people on the basis of blasphemy accusations and not being properly arrested, prosecuted, convicted and so on,” Mark detailed.

While Pakistan was ranked earlier this year by Open Doors USA as the fifth-worst country in the world for Christian persecution and receives much international attention for the persecution Christians face there, other religious minorities also experience wrath of mob violence as well.

In April 2017, a Pakistani mob dragged a college student out of his dorm room and killed him over allegations of blasphemy stemming from his promotion of the Ahmadi faith. A friend of the victims was also beaten up for expressing his faith.

Although Pakistan is not labeled as a CPC, the State Department last year placed Pakistan on the newly-created “Special Watch List” for severe violations of religious liberty.

Mark stressed that USCIRF is adamant in its belief that Pakistan should be designated as a CPC despite its relations with the U.S. government.

“We continue to make the designation because we think they should be designated,” he stated. “We will continue to speak truth to power because we do feel very strongly about this and we feel religious freedom is very closely tied to the peace, prosperity and stability we want to see in Pakistan and Pakistan wants for itself.”

–Metro Voice and wire services

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