A bipartisan U.S. government commission that monitors religious freedom around the globe has released an annual report that names the countries where freedom of religion is endangered or non-existent.
The report by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, or USCIRF, covers 28 countries, focusing on the worst nations in the world for religious freedom and highlighting improvements in those places as well.
USCIRF recommends to the State Department 16 nations for designation as Countries of Particular Concern: Burma, Central African Republic, China, Eritrea, Iran, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.
In a conference call with reporters, USCIRF Chairman Daniel Mark says one recommendation from the commission is to press for the "unconditional release" of religious prisoners, using U.S. visa requests and asset freezes to put pressure on officials in those countries.
Mark says governments can be held accountable not just for what they are actively doing to violate religious freedom but also by tolerating severe violations of religious freedom by private actors such as ISIS, the Taliban, and al-Shabaab.