On October 26, the State Department released its third annual International Religious Freedom Report, which documents the status of religious freedom in 195 economies worldwide. The report is compiled and released under 1998's International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA).

On the same day, Secretary of State Colin Powell designated six countries and Afghanistan's Taliban regime as Countries of Particular Concern (CPCs). The countries were Burma, China, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, and Sudan. Such status makes a country subject to U.S. diplomatic and economic sanctions.

Nina Shea, director of Freedom House's Center for Religious Freedom and a commissioner of

the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom said the report is a "monumental effort"—but has flaws.

"It is better for the world of religious freedom to have this report than not to," Shea told Christianity Today last week. "But I find problems with the reporting on countries where the U.S. wants something such as oil or assistance in the war on terrorism."

The most glaring flaws, she said, appear in the report on Sudan, a country that has provided assistance in U.S. anti-terrorism efforts. "There is no real indication in the report that there is a genocide or jihad occurring," Shea said. The word jihad does appear, but only once and on page 5 of 6:

The Government is dominated by northern Muslims, while the southern ethnic groups fighting the civil war largely are followers of traditional indigenous religions or Christians. The Government has declared a "jihad" (Muslim holy war) against the southern rebels. One of the major factors in the continuation of the war is the Government refusal to agree to demands for a unified secular state.

Shea said the report's ...

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