US classifies six more Asian nations as religious freedom violators including Sri Lanka
WASHINGTON AFP 16/09/2006 06:46
The United States has classified six Asian countries as religious freedom violators, aside from China, Myanmar, North Korea and Vietnam already blacklisted as worst offenders in the region.
Afghanistan, Brunei, India, Laos, Pakistan and Sri Lanka were included in a 'significant' list of violators of religious freedom in the US State Department's annual International Religious Freedom Report 2006.
In this year's report, the State Department emerged with two categories of countries.
The first list of eight 'countries of particular concern' or 'severe' violators of religious freedom comprised Myanmar, China, North Korea, Iran, Sudan, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam.
The other list of 20 countries, including the eight, where religious freedom was seen with 'significant interest' were Afghanistan, Brunei, Cuba, Egypt, India, Israel and Occupied Territories, Laos, Pakistan, Russia, Sri Lanka, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
'The list of 20 countries are ones that we just felt gave a good overview of some of the dynamics that constitute this past year of religious freedom issues in the world,' Hanford said at a media briefing after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice launched the report covering 197 countries and territories.
'Yes, I think generally speaking they reflect some of the more serious violators of religious freedom. I think it's fair to say that if we add any countries this year (to the Countries of Particular Concern), probably they'll come from that list,' Hanford said.
In Vietnam, overall, respect for religious freedom has improved, the report said. Hanford hinted the country could be removed from the department's blacklist.
The religious freedom report illustrates 'the importance and the salience of religion in all the big issues in Asia -- extremism, terrorism, democratic transition and integration of countries such as China and Vietnam into the international system,' said Scott Flipse, a senior policy analyst with the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, a Congress-mandated panel.
'Policy makers and diplomats ignore religion at their peril,' he said. 'More and more the salience of religion is becoming an international relations strategic factor.'
The commission each year recommends to Rice which countries should be blacklisted.
In Sri Lanka, the report highlighted 'violent resistance' by some Buddhists to Christian church activity of particularly evangelical groups.
There also were sporadic attacks on Christian churches by Buddhist extremists, it said.