A new annual report revealed that roughly half of the entire world's population lives in countries where religious freedom violations occur.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) last month released its Annual Report focusing on events in 2021 and reporting on the countries that are engaging in or tolerating religious freedom violations. The report also revealed that nearly 50% of the world's population live in countries where religious freedom violations occur and are tolerated. Moreover, 27 countries also engage in or tolerate these attacks.

"It's happening all over the world," USCIRF commission member James Carr lamented, as per the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette. The USCIRF designated 15 of the 27 nations as "Countries of Particular Concern" or countries where its government "engages in or tolerates 'particularly severe' violations of religious freedom," the report noted.

Among the worst offenders where religious freedom violations occur constantly are Afghanistan, China, India, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Syria, India, Burma or Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Vietnam, and Eritrea. Twelve other countries were listed in the commission's "Special Watch List" for their rampant religious persecution, including Cuba, Indonesia, Iraq, Malaysia, Turkey, Algeria, and many more.

USCIRF Raises Concern Over Afghanistan Under Taliban Rule and Other Countries Engaging in Religious Persecution

In a written statement, USCIRF commission chair Nadine Maenza expressed how "disheartened" the commission is over the "deterioration of freedom of religion or belief...especially Afghanistan under the Taliban's de facto government since August [2021]."

"Religious minorities have faced harassment, detention, and even death due to their faith or beliefs, and years of progress toward more equitable access to education and representation of women and girls have disappeared," Maennza remarked, as reported by Crux Now.

Despite promising to be a new, more progressive Taliban, the ruling militant group that took over Afghanistan following the withdrawal of U.S. troops last year had banned girls from attending classes during the recent school year opening. Human rights activists raised concerns over this, calling upon the Taliban to maintain their earlier promises.

Also Read: Taliban Backtracks On Promise To Allow Afghan Girls To Continue Their Education

Meanwhile, the USCIRF also expressed concern over the religious persecution occurring in Russia, where Jehovah's Witnesses are being arrested, and China, where Christians, Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists and members of Falun Gong, are being religiously persecuted.

Christians Are Being Persecuted in Countries That Engage in Religious Freedom Violations

In all five of the new countries included in the USCIRF's list of recommendations for the State Department to designate as Countries of Particular Concern (CPCs), Christians have experienced persecution in the last year. These countries are Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, Syria, and Vietnam. According to Maenza, Nigeria is the biggest concern for Christians specifically, as this is where extremist groups Boko Haram and the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) are ravaging Christian towns and communities.

In Nigeria, Christians face blasphemy charges and convictions, violence, and attacks during religious ceremonies. Since 2009, the USCIRF had urged the State Department to designate Nigeria as a CPC for such offenses. The government finally named them in 2020, but failed to redesignate them in 2021.

Related Article: Advocacy Groups Are Concerned State Department Removes Nigeria From Its Religious Freedom Watch List