These cases are concerning but not surprising given research by the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation showing that violations of religious freedom have an adverse impact on a country's business climate and economy.
The cases outlined in the new report include:
CHINA: Local authorities in parts of Xinjiang also threatened action against Muslim business owners if they declined to sell alcohol and cigarettes based on their religious beliefs and traditions.
ERITREA: Since 1994, Jehovah’s Witnesses have been barred from obtaining government-issued identity and travel documents, government jobs, and business licenses. Eritrean identity cards are required for legal recognition of marriages or land purchases. The State Department reported that some local authorities denied water and gas to Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The lack of fundamental human rights and economic opportunities in Eritrea has led thousands of Eritreans to flee the country to neighboring states and beyond to seek asylum, including in Europe and the United States, according to the report. The UN reported in 2015 that since 2014 an estimated six percent of the population has fled the country.
NORTH KOREA: In part due to ongoing egregious violations of human rights, including the absence of religious freedom, in February, the US Congress approved and President Barack Obama signed into law the North Korea Sanctions Enforcement Act, which imposes both mandatory and discretionary sanctions against individuals conducting certain kinds of business with North Korea. This cuts off important business connections and possibilities for the country to emerge from isolation.
NIGERIA: Since 1999, violence between Christian and Muslim communities in Nigeria, particularly in the Middle Belt states, has resulted in the deaths of more than 18,000 people, displaced hundreds of thousands, and damaged or destroyed thousands of churches, mosques, businesses, homes, and other structures. While this violence usually does not start as a religious conflict, it often takes on religious undertones and is perceived as a religion-based conflict for many involved.
The Nigerian government’s efforts against Boko Haram continue to be primarily military actions. While it has announced multiple initiatives to support Boko Haram’s victims and address the economic and educational issues driving conflict, there have been no concrete actions, according to the report. A December 2015 comprehensive conference for the northeast was delayed indefinitely, and it is unclear who in the Nigerian government is responsible for Northeastern affairs. Further, the Nigerian government is doing little to counter radicalization among potential Boko Haram recruits.
VIETNAM: During 2015, local authorities in some areas continued to harass and question the independent Buddhist faith Hoa Hao in connection with the practice of their religion. For example, worshippers’ homes and businesses in Dong Thap Province were repeatedly vandalized and surveilled, causing significant disruptions to their livelihoods. Khmer Krom Buddhists experienced similar harassment. For example, local authorities in Soc Trang Province have allowed private enterprises to establish commercial businesses on temple grounds, which Khmer Krom Buddhists believe violates the sanctity of the temples. Independent Cao Dai followers in Phu Yen Province protested the local government’s attempts to bulldoze Tuy An Temple where they worship.
TAJIKISTAN: With the Russian economy’s recent downturn, hundreds of thousands of Tajik workers have returned home to few job prospects, giving rise to new social tensions. In 2015 Secretary Kerry made a public statement noting Tajikistan’s security and economic challenges and highlighted the need to fight violent extremism while respecting human rights, religious freedom, and active political participation.
INDIA: Article 48 of the Indian constitution and most Indian states (24 out of 29, as of 2015) significantly restrict or ban cow slaughter, which is required for Muslims during Eid al-Adha (Festival of the Sacrifice). The application of these provisions also economically marginalizes Muslims and Dalits (who adhere to various religious faiths); many members of these communities work in the beef industry, including slaughter for consumption, hauling items, and producing leather goods. Under state criminal laws, individuals can face up to 10 years in jail or a fine of up to 10,000 rupees (US$150) for the slaughter or possession of cows or bulls or the consumption of beef, and mere accusations of violations can lead to violence.
Separately, non-Hindu Dalits, especially Christians and Muslims, do not qualify for the official reserves for jobs or school placement available to Hindu Dalits, putting these groups at a significant economic and social advancement disadvantage.
BAHRAIN: In October 2015, UN experts found that patterns of cultural, economic, educational, and social discrimination against Shi’a Muslims in Bahrain persisted in 2015. They found that excessive use of force and abuses targeting Shi’a clerics continued, as did discrimination in the education system, media, public sector employment, and other government social policies, such as housing and welfare programs.