Thursday, May 04, 2006

Actions of the US The Congressional Commission on International Religious Freedom

I'll repost the article from Asianews:

Washington (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Congressional Commission on International Religious Freedom urged the US government to take “aggressive action” against Saudi Arabia for alleged violations to religious freedom. The congressional body urged Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to keep Saudi Arabia, as well as China, Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Sudan and Vietnam, on the annual government blacklist of “severe religious freedom violators” six of which are in Asia. In addition, it also proposed that Pakistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan be added to the list.

Commission chairman Michael Cromartie indicated that conditions for religious freedom in Saudi Arabia had not substantially improved since it was blacklisted two years ago.

Washington had granted a “temporary 180-day waiver of further action” against Saudi Arabia to allow for continued talks with the ally over religious reforms, which expired in late March.

Freedom of religion “does not exist” in the oil-rich kingdom, Mr Cromartie said. And the US government “must not hesitate in taking aggressive action” against the country, he said, suggesting travel restrictions on Saudi officials as well as export curbs.

Afghanistan, which under the Talibans was a particularly gross violator of religious freedom, was added to the commission’s “watch list” along with Bangladesh, Belarus, Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia and Nigeria, despite the fact that a court last month demanded that a Muslim who converted to Christianity be sentenced to death under Sharia law.

Here is a link to the website of the Commission (link)

From what I can tell there are three levels:

Watchlist-Just watching

Particular Concern
-Possible Sanctions

Blacklist-Sanctions that may include travel restrictions officials as well as export curbs on items that could be used to perpetrate rights violations.

In unusal hard offical language they said:

On Saudi Arabia, the commission said "freedom of religion does not exist" and that the Saudis financed "extreme religious intolerance and hatred."

When the full annual report is released to the public it will contain:

recommendations on U.S. policy for the President, Secretary of State, and Congress for CPCs and countries where the United States can help to promote freedom of religion or belief.

The Peaceful protests for Coptic rights came as this report was being prepared. And it does contain the phrase:

In Egypt, ''discrimination, intolerance and other human rights violations affect a broad spectrum of religious groups,'' including Coptic Christians, Bahais, Jews and members of minority Muslim communities. (link)

May the peaceful search for love and tolerance bear fruit.

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