Reported by Christianity Today, the Open Doors World Watch List has documented the countries in which Christians suffer severe persecution, but also documented are the countries that have seen improvements. According to Christianity Today, “there are positive situations in a few countries. Of course they are not perfect, and Open Doors still gives several low marks. But these glimmers of light are worthy of prayer, support, and continued engagement to press for further improvements.”
The United Arab Emirates is funding a restoration project of two historic churches in Iraq that ISIS attempted to destroy. Last year, they also began building the first official synagogue as part of a state-funded project to construct a mosque, a church and a synagogue in the same complex. Though “Emirati citizens do not enjoy full conscience rights,” these improvements are providing a ray of hope.
In Sudan, the government developed a new constitution in 2019 with “several notable provisions defending religious freedom and minority worship.” The government repealed a law that imposed death for apostasy and prohibited flogging as a punishment for blasphemy. These changes weakening persecution are particularly noteworthy as many Muslim countries increased punishments. Still, Sudan is dealing with a dictatorial government that is threatening in many ways to civilians.
Between 2006 and 2017, Uzbekistan was considered one of the worst offenders of religious freedom, however, new leadership has changed that as they sought to build a relationship with the United States. Since then, Uzbekistan has “eased legal restrictions, released prisoners, and registered churches.” Though the country is still grappling with greater religious reforms, these are a start to improving conditions on a path towards more religious freedom.
The International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance (IRFBA) is working to improve conditions regarding religious freedom around the world. Working together, a group of 33 nations are making efforts to focus on advancing religious freedom, specifically discussing Afghanistan (which now tops the list of persecution for Christians) and Burma (Myanmar). Members of the Alliance are committed to the Declaration of Principles, which includes a statement that “everyone has freedom to believe or not believe, to change faith, to meet alone for prayer or corporately for worship.” Additionally, upcoming summits in both the US and London will focus on multinational efforts regarding the advancement of religious liberty.
Though these nations still struggle with severe human rights violations, the small steps that have been taken towards religious freedom are providing a little hope that they may be able to overcome obstacles they face to freely practice religion. As these nations continue on their path towards religious freedom, it is important to maintain faith and prayer in the hopes that their improvements may continue.