Sri Lanka earns place among religious freedom violators

Chandi Dharmaratne

WASHINGTON, Sept 16 (AFP) – The United States on Friday classified six Asian countries as religious freedom violators, aside from China, Myanmar, North Korea and Vietnam already blacklisted as worst offenders in the region.

Afghanistan, Brunei, India, Laos, Pakistan and Sri Lanka were included in a “significant” list of violators of religious freedom in the US State Department’s annual International Religious Freedom Report 2006.

John Hanford, US envoy for international religious freedom, said there was a possibility that one or more from the six nations could be added to a blacklist of “countries of particular concern” that includes China, Myanmar, North Korea and Vietnam.

The blacklist is renewed annually and the State Department is expected to publish an update in coming weeks.

In this year’s report, the State Department emerged with two categories of countries.
The first list of eight “countries of particular concern” or “severe” violators of religious freedom comprised Myanmar, China, North Korea, Iran, Sudan, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam.

The other list of 20 countries, including the eight, where religious freedom was seen with “significant interest” were Afghanistan, Brunei, Cuba, Egypt, Indi