Religious freedom watchdog group adds Egypt to violator list
Thousands of Coptic Christians protested outside the Egyptian state broadcasting office for nine consecutive days in March.
April 28th, 2011
03:33 PM ET

Religious freedom watchdog group adds Egypt to violator list

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Washington (CNN) - Egypt has been added to a list of countries named as the worst violators of religious freedom for the first time, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom announced Thursday in releasing its annual report.

"The Egyptian government engaged in and tolerated religious freedom violations before and after President Hosni Mubarak stepped down on February 11, 2001," the commissioners wrote in the report. They cited violence toward religious minorities in Egypt including Coptic Christians and non-majority Muslim groups.

"Since February 11, religious freedom conditions have not improved and attacks targeting religious minorities have continued," the report said.

The group, an independent, bipartisan federal commission, said Egypt was put on the list of "Countries of Particular Concern" for "a number of very specific reasons but one that was a particular concern to the commissioners was the issue of impunity," commission chair Leonard Leo told reporters at a Washington news conference about the report.

One benchmark the commission looked at for Egypt, Leo said, was the trial following the Nag Hammadi shootings, which involved a massacre on the day Coptic Christians celebrate their Christmas Eve services.

"That, for us, was a very important signal the impunity issue was getting worse and not better. When you combine that with other conditions that have existed, particularly various elements of state sponsored repression, we believe there was sufficient grounds for triggering the (International Religious Freedom) act standard, which is a systematic, egregious violations of the freedom of religion," Leo said.

Elizabeth Prodromou, a vice-chair of the commission, said the group noted "both a qualitative, as well as a quantitative, deterioration in religious freedom issues in Egypt."

"In particular, we saw a dramatic uptick in targeted religious violence, primarily against the Coptic Orthodox community, but also against the Roman Catholic community and other Christian communities," she said.

The commission recommended that the U.S. military direct some of the "existing military assistance" to protecting Coptic Christians and other religious minorities, in addition to diplomatic efforts to pressure the new government with reform measures.

Also on the CPC list of religious freedom violators: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

The USCIRF takes its list of CPCs to the secretary of state at the State Department, which maintains its own list of countries of particular concern. When a country lands on this list for what is determined to be "systematic, ongoing, and egregious" violations of religious freedom, then the president is required by law to take action - such as sanctions or other diplomatic pressures on those countries.

The commission pointed out in its report that the Obama administration has not added any countries to the State Department CPC list.

The aim of the report and list is "naming and shaming" - if the United States calls these other countries out, perhaps they will change their behavior.

The commission pointed to Vietnam as an example of a country that changed its behavior in the past when it was added to the State Department's CPC list. After it was taken off the list several years ago, conditions worsened and it has since been put back on the list.

The annual report is one of the main functions of the commission. It was formed in 1998 by the International Religious Freedom Act. The president and Congress appoint its commissioners, who review violations around the globe and report back with policy recommendations to the president, secretary of state, and Congress.

"The commission is a unique body in the world. There is no other government institution like it in any other country that looks only at issues of international freedom and belief," Leo said. In their discussions and pushing for change, he said, they only use international human rights instruments.

There is no domestic focus for the group, only an international one, and the commissioners come from a diverse spectrum of American religious life. They include a Baptist minister, an imam, a human rights lawyer and a religious scholar.

"One of our requirements we've established internally is we have to have six votes to make a recommendation," said Richard Land, the head of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. "Given the diversity of this commission, I'm not sure we'd be able to get six votes on most domestic issues."

The report covered a period from April 2010 to March 2011. The commissioners said they traveled the globe to get a firsthand account of issues of concern and spoke with numerous U.S. officials to get a broad spectrum of information for the report.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Africa • Belief • Coptic • DC • Egypt • Politics • United States

soundoff (34 Responses)
  1. Mini PC Reviews

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    July 18, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
  2. SickOfReligion

    The U.S. was not founded on Christian morals. Many of the founding fathers despised Christianity. You are a stereotypical ignorant Christian that loves to take to credit for things Christianity was not a part of.

    May 1, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
    • SickOfReligion

      And the way you talk about atheists shows a blatant hatred for something you obviously do not understand. How Christian of you.

      May 1, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
  3. BG

    A couple of posters on this topic are aware about how important it is. The rest of you are totally oblivious.



    April 30, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
  4. T-party

    As an agnostic of all religions I want to thank God for science,secular humanism,and giving me a brain to understand evolution,natural selection,erosion escarpments,plate techtonics,animal fossils,fossil fuels and most of all seeing through religious bigetry

    April 30, 2011 at 12:41 am |
    • Adelina

      T-party, thanking God is a religious act. Don't contradict yourself like atheists do.

      April 30, 2011 at 5:47 am |
    • Peace2All


      Hey -T-party...

      I'm curious. As I understand it, when someone claims to be agnostic, 'one' of the definitions is that they are 'not sure' of whether or not there is a God.

      In your posting you 'thank God' which 'infers' you already believe in a God. I'm aware that you are 'agnostic' to all 'religions' as you stated, but are you saying that you 'do' 'believe' in God, but...'all religions' you aren't sure...?

      Sincerely curious...



      May 1, 2011 at 2:49 am |
    • wipeOut

      T-party is a true-blue Atheist. His statement proves his ego had bloated like a space blob but shrank to the size of a quark.

      May 1, 2011 at 8:06 am |
  5. T-party

    Jim Bakker,Koresh,swaggert,haggert,bin ladinJim Jones,falwell,Pat robinson,rev wright,suni verses shiat,benny hinn,religion is a complete joke and is destroying mankind.

    April 30, 2011 at 12:38 am |
    • Adelina

      T-party, the religion(Christianity) established your country and protected your parents' lives. Your problem is the partiality of knowledge in everything.

      April 30, 2011 at 6:14 am |
  6. Reality

    There never was and never will be physical resurrections i.e. no Easter, no Christianity, no sainthood for JPII and an end to the ranting of HeavenSent and his fellow red-neck Christians. Priceless!!!!

    April 29, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Reality seriously please light yourself on fire.

      April 29, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
    • Keith

      Apparently he's still dousing himself with lighter fluid. Totally self-inflicted.

      April 29, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
    • Adelina

      Reality, read Russian classics. I'm sure there are English translations of those. They portray people like you almost like a mirror. The Bible is perfect but you can't understand a verse.

      April 30, 2011 at 6:12 am |
  7. Keith

    Eygpt continues to be hostile to Christians and wants to dissolve the peace treaty with Israel. Syria and Hezbollah will have a compet-ition to be the first to launch a SCUD missile on Tel Aviv. Our leaders keep trying to hurt Israel by forcing them to give up their covenant land and supporting these cool little revolutions. Excuse me, but has anyone looked at what is happening to what is happening to our country in recent days? Does, "I will bless those that bless thee, and curse those that curseth thee" ring a bell? America better wake up to this reality before there's no America left.

    April 29, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
  8. Methusalem969

    What about our freind Turkey?

    Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has ordered the destruction of a giant monument to friendship between Turkey and Armenia exactly on the Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day.

    The 30-meter (100-foot) unfinished concrete statue, located in the northeastern Turkish city of Kars close to the Armenian border, was commissioned in 2006 to promote dialogue and reconciliation between the two countries. It depicts two figures emerging from one human shape and symbolizing the pain of division

    April 29, 2011 at 7:59 am |
  9. Methusalem969

    „Crowds Protest Christian Governor in South Egypt“

    „The mass of the activists were driven by a sectarian reason, saying it is not appropriate for a Christian to govern Muslims, who make up the greater part of the population. „

    This is what the mainstream media didn't dare to inform us last week.

    April 29, 2011 at 7:47 am |
  10. Adelina

    ? Egypt has been in the list as far as the history goes.

    April 28, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
  11. doctore0

    Freedom FROM religion is the real issue; Religion is enslavement.

    April 28, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
    • Adelina

      Truth sets mankind free. Freedom is there to freely exercise religion. Atheists are too stupid to exercise freedom.

      April 28, 2011 at 10:00 pm |
  12. Amr

    The caption for the picture says "Thousands of Coptic Christians protested outside the Egyptian state broadcasting office for nine consecutive days in March." This is not a good picture to use because in this picture I see Christians and Muslims protesting together... I even see more Muslims in the picture...

    April 28, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
  13. HeavenSent

    I tried to post the truth to the fake heavensent and I was blocked. Interesting why would that be? Perhaps there are some on CNN who want to stop the truth.

    April 28, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
    • Mary

      It's a message from God, through the Holy Spirit telling you to stop your nonsense!

      April 28, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
    • Adelina

      Fakes, give up. We know what true HeavenSent would say.

      April 28, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
  14. HeavenSent

    You are the fake (Tom). You work for CNN and block my posts and the Truth.

    April 28, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Actually, phony heavensent. You have numerous dummy handles on this site. All foolish carnal comments.


      April 28, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
  15. HeavenSent

    Policing is fine as long as we are spreading the Truth about Jesus. The ignorant Arabs and Muslims need to be educated and shown the Truth.

    April 28, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Phony heavensent. I've got your number now. Every time a serious discussion comes on these article, you do your duties for CNN by blogging your nonsense using my handle so know one wakes up to what I have to post.


      April 28, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
    • Ed

      your suggesting we spread the truth of Jesus by forcing belief in him at gun point, and you think I'm going to he-ll again get thee behind me satan you are prehaps the least christian person I have ever meet. I know wiccans that behave like christians better than you. You are why every one thinks christains are self righteous je-rks. You do more harm to the christain faith they any atiest or agnostic. If you really were listening to Christ you would know. They will know we are christian by our love. Not our hate or words our love and you seem to have none. I feel sorry for you in any case you are to closed minded to listen and a waste of my time. I'll stick the the followers of Christ and the none believers.

      April 28, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      I rest my case. You associate with wiccans and yet you think you are a Christian. Do you even know who Jesus is? I doubt it.

      April 28, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
    • Ed

      You ned to change you sign on from the way you post you're form an h but its not heaven. You also need a shrink see if your boss has a health plan. I doubt doesn't seem like something Lucifer would have. I'll stick with the christias, wiccans, muslims, hindus, buddists, athiest, agnostics and pagans, they are far better company and a better moral compass the you could possibly hope to be.

      April 28, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
    • Keith

      Well that certainly confirms the recent Barna research of "born-again Christians" which shows 25% believe in universalism. 40% believe that muslims and Christians worship the same god. Just cause someone "claims" to be a Christian doesn't make him/her one. John 3:36 sums it up quite nicely, "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life: but the wrath of God abideth on him." Universalism is a lie.

      April 29, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
  16. Ed

    So the world complains the Us acts as the police of the world but then it asks to police another country. I agree religious freedom should be for everyone every where but America doe snot have the right to force it on anyone

    April 28, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • Adelina

      Ed, if you are one of stupid, uneducated liberal Americans, just go anywhere and live there not as a tourist; you'd appreciate USA more. Free countries are protected by USA and the rest are criminals.

      April 28, 2011 at 10:13 pm |
About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.