The latest report from an American religious freedom watchdog listed the 26 worst countries that prosecute their citizens based on religion. Once again Asia dominated the report, but several African countries also made the list. Many of the nations have persecuted, minority Christian populations.
The U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom issued their 2014 report, and divided the countries into three groups. The first includes the worst offenders, officially designated by the U.S. Government as "countries of particular concern,” and which face some type of sanctions.
They include Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan. Sudan, in particular, made headlines recently when a judge sentenced 27-year-old Miriam Yahya Ibrahim to death for apostasy. The mother-to-be was born into a Muslim family, but married a Christian. Her husband, a U.S. Citizen, said they will appeal her sentence.
The second group is made up countries that the non-partisan commission says should also be designated as worst offenders by the U.S. State Department, and face government sanctions. The list is made up Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam.
The inclusion of Nigeria is no surprise either. Christian communities in the country's north are constantly attacked by Islamist militant group Boko Haram. The Nigerian government has been under scrutiny, after the terrorist group kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls in April.
The third list is made up of ten countries included in the commission's Tier 2 category. These countries are classified as tolerating religious persecution, but not to the extent and severity to merit government sanctions. The ten nations include Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Laos, Malaysia, Russia, and Turkey.
Though not officially included on the list, the commission also discussed several other countries where they determined religious freedom was under attack. Although not a country, the commission singled out Western Europe. They said the region has put in place controversial laws on religious dress and practices like ritual slaughter. They also pointed out the lack of accommodation for conscientious objectors to certain laws, like gay marriage, based on their religious views.