Through the Lens: Life and Politics in Asia | Society

What’s Up With Religious Freedom Worldwide?

An overview from Nadine Maenza, vice chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

By Vishal Arora for

Persecution of religious minorities, particularly Christians and Muslims, has risen around the world over the last few years, and a new trend is emerging where non-state actors are playing an increasing role in targeted attacks, said Nadine Maenza, vice chair of the bipartisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

In its annual report monitoring religious freedom violations around the world, the commission recommends that the U.S. State Department designate certain countries as “countries of particular concern” and impose sanctions. However, the commission’s recommendations are not binding and successive U.S. governments have put national interests before the promotion of religious freedom in some countries allied to America, Maenza admitted.

Speaking to The Diplomat, via StoriesAsia, at the Taiwan International Religious Freedom Forum in Hsinchu City in June, Maenza explained some major challenges the commission has faced, and also why there are reasons for hope for religious minorities.

The UN General Assembly has established August 22 as the International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief, which is expected to increase acknowledgment of the need for countries around the world to respect religious freedom.