international religious freedom
Despite much gloom and doom, there were a few silver linings in the report. Religious freedom and harmony have improved in Cyprus, resulting in greater access to houses of worship across the Green Line separating north from south. Nigeria witnessed its first peaceful democratic transfer of power earlier this year when Muslim northerner Muhammadu Buhari ousted Christian southerner Jonathan Goodluck at the polls. And Sri Lanka’s new government has taken positive steps to promote religious freedom and unity in the face of violent Buddhist nationalism.
It can be hard to come up with a list of countries with the most egregious records on religious freedom when some of the world’s worst offenders aren’t even nation states.
For its annual report of violators, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom counts 15 nations where abuse of religious liberty is “systemic, egregious, and ongoing.”
But the commission, which was created by Congress in 1998 as an independent watchdog panel, also wants to highlight the crimes of non-nations, which for the first time this year get their own section in the report.
Youcef Nadarkhani, an Iranian pastor imprisoned for nearly three years for “apostasy” until his release in September when the charge was changed to "evangelizing," was reportedly re-arrested on Christmas Day and ordered to serve the remaining 45 days of his prison sentence.
Morning Star News reports:
“An Iranian pastor freed from prison in September after nearly three years of detainment was re-arrested on Christmas Day in a move that human rights groups consider intentional harassment for rejecting Islam. …
“Those close to the case and Nadarkhani’s family said the re-arrest may also have served as a direct message for the pastor to leave the Islamic Republic, according to Jason DeMars of PTM [Present Truth Ministries].
“It appears that it is a move to harass him,” DeMars told Morning Star News. “Perhaps they want him to leave the country permanently.”