Religious freedom worsens in China, Iran, State Department says
POSTED: Tuesday, July 31, 2012 - 6:00am
UPDATED: Tuesday, July 31, 2012 - 6:04am
Washington D.C. (CNN) — The U.S. State Department criticized China, Iran, Pakistan and other countries Monday for failing to do more to protect religious freedom.
In its annual International Religious Freedom report, the department highlights China, where it says there has been a "marked deterioration" in the past year. Official interference with Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and nunneries contributed to at least a dozen self-immolations in 2011, the report says.
The Asian county, along with North Korea, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Eritrea are described as "chronic and systemic violators of religious freedom."
In Pakistan, abuses continued under a blasphemy law and a "climate of impunity" was unabated, the report says. In Iran, religious freedom deteriorated from "an already egregious situation," it adds.
The report also documents what it describes as a "rising tide" of anti-Semitism in various countries. Jewish synagogues and cemeteries were desecrated in France, Hungary witnessed the rise of an openly anti-Semitic party, and anti-Semitic rhetoric appeared in the media in Venezuela and Egypt, it said.
Though some Arab countries in transition increased religious freedom in the past year, there were some steps backward as well, according to the report.
In Egypt, the interim government passed an anti-discrimination law, but sectarian violence was on the rise alongside overall violence. The government failed to stem attacks on Coptic Christians and there were indications of a "mounting Coptic emigration," the report says.
The report finds some actions to commend as well. Turkey issued a decree facilitating the return of property confiscated from religious groups in the past. In Libya, the Supreme Court overturned a law that criminalized insults against Islam, and the new government chose not to enforce some old laws that limit religious freedom, the report says.