Perhaps the most harrowing presentation in the volume is the chart assessing movement since the last report in 2018. Most arrows point down. Among the 26 “red” countries, only Pakistan improved. Among the 36 “orange” malefactors, nine improved and four remained unchanged. Most persecutors are authoritarian. Those regimes with a religious focus are overwhelmingly Muslim. A few are avowedly ethnoreligious and nationalistic.
Religious Freedom in the World is a magnificent source of information about the persecuted. Alas, it offers fewer answers. But that reflects the complexity of the problem rather than any failure in the analysis.
Looking to Washington for answers is a mistake. Although designation of an ambassador for religious liberty was a positive step, as was the formation of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, the U.S. government has done much to contribute to the problem. American military power is more apt to destroy than to construct: The invasion of Iraq had catastrophic consequences for Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq and well beyond. The impact of economic sanctions does not distinguish by religion. For instance, Washington’s perverse attempt to force regime change by starving Syria’s civilian population harms religious minorities alongside everyone else, irrespective of support for Bashar al‐Assad. Washington’s tight political embrace of oppressive regimes such as those of Egypt and Saudi Arabia limits America’s ability to promote human rights, including religious liberty. And the overwhelming importance typically placed on security and economic interests reduces every administration’s ability and even interest in addressing persecution by such l adversaries, and potential adversaries, as North Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and China.
Washington’s failure puts a premium on people of good will of all faiths to support the persecuted and to press for change. There are organizations, such as Aid to the Church in Need, and many more — of different religious denominations and even no faith commitment — to support. There are criminal regimes to embarrass and shame. And there are victims, so many victims — the threatened, the terrorized, the imprisoned, the beaten, the murdered — to pray for, console, assist, and defend.
Surely that is the least that those of us living amid safety and plenty should do.