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International Religious Freedom Report 2022

  • 26 Apr 2022
  • 6 min read

For Prelims: USCIRF, International Religious Freedom Report 2022

For Mains: Effect of Policies & Politics of Countries on India's Interests , Religious Freedom in India and relation Issues

Why in News?

Recently, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has recommended for the second year in the row to put India on a list (Countries of Particular Concern or CPCs) for the worst violations of religious freedoms in 2021.

What is USCIRF?

  • USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan US federal government commission, dedicated to defending the universal right to freedom of religion or belief abroad.
  • It is an advisory body to the US Congress.
  • USCIRF’s 2022 Annual Report provides recommendations to enhance the U.S. government’s promotion of freedom of religion or belief abroad.
  • It is Headquartered in Washington DC.
  • Established by the US government in 1998 after the inaction of the International Religious Freedom Act, recommendations of USCIRF are non-binding on the state department.
    • Traditionally, India does not recognize the view of USCIRF.

What are the Key Highlights of the Report?

  • The Report’s primary focus is on two groups of countries:
    • Country of Particular Concern (CPC): It is a designation by the US Secretary of State of a nation engaged in severe violations of religious freedom under IRFA (International Religious Freedom Act of 1998).
    • Special Watch List: A “Special Watch List” country is one that is deemed not to meet all the CPC criteria but engages in or tolerates severe violations of religious freedom.
  • The Report also includes USCIRF’s recommendations of violent nonstate actors for designation by the US State Department as Entities of Particular Concern (EPCs), under International Review of Financial Analysis (IRFA).
  • The report also highlights important global developments and trends related to religious freedom during 2021—including in countries that do not meet the criteria for CPC or SWL recommendations.
    • These include the Covid-19 pandemic and religious freedom, blasphemy and hate speech law enforcement, transnational repression, religious intolerance in Europe, deteriorating religious freedom conditions in South Asia, and political upheaval that raises religious freedom concerns.

What are the Latest Recommendations of USCIRF?

  • For the CPC List:
    • Other than India, countries recommended for the CPC designation are Afghanistan, Nigeria, Syria, and Vietnam.
    • Countries recommended for redesignating include Myanmar, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan as CPCs.
  • For A Special Watch List:
    • Algeria, Cuba, and Nicaragua were placed in 2021.
    • Others include Azerbaijan, CAR, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Turkey, and Uzbekistan.
  • For EPCs:
    • Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, the Houthis, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP or ISIS-West Africa), and Jamaat Nasr al-Islam Wal Muslimin (JNIM).

What are the Concerns Raised about India?

  • The report highlighted that the government had “repressed critical voices”, especially minority communities and individuals reporting on them.
  • The report also touches on challenges faced by Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs), especially about foreign funding.
  • It also highlights anti-conversion laws. In October 2021, Karnataka’s government ordered a survey of churches and priests in the state and authorized police to conduct a door-to-door inspection to find Hindus who have converted to Christianity.

What is the State of Freedom of Religion in India?

  • Freedom of religion in India is a fundamental right guaranteed by Article 25-28 of the Constitution of India.
    • Article 25 (Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion).
    • Article 26 (Freedom to manage religious affairs).
    • Article 27 (Freedom as to payment of taxes for promotion of any religion).
    • Article 28 (Freedom as to attendance at religious instruction or religious worship in certain educational institutions).
  • Further, Article 29 and 30 of the Constitution deal with the protection of interests of minorities.

Source: TH

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