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NGOs highlight disturbing trend of global religious persecution

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Western leaders condemned for ‘deliberately turning a deaf ear to dictators’

People wait in a makeshift shelter at an army camp after the withdrawal of Indian troops following racial violence in northeastern India’s Manipur state, May 7, 2023. About 23,000 people have fled ethnic violence in the northeastern Indian state of Manipur. The military said on May 7, 2023, that at least 54 people had been reported dead, although there were no new “major incidents of violence” overnight. | Arun Sankar/AFP via Getty Images

A new report from Aiding Churches in Need sheds light on the escalating culture of impunity surrounding religious persecution around the world and reveals that more than 4.9 billion people live in countries where religious freedom is severely violated.

The state of religious freedom guaranteed by Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights looks grim for 4.9 billion people living in 61 countries. World Religious Freedom Report 2023 Covers the period January 2021 to December 2022.

“This means that 62% of people live in countries where people cannot freely practice, express or change their religion,” ACN said. “Culprits for violating religious freedom range from armed terrorist groups to authoritarian governments, but the rule remains One of the causes of impunity, they are rarely, if ever, brought to justice or criticized by the international community.”

Of the 61 countries, 28 were marked in red, denoting “hot spots” where persecution is rampant, and another 33 were marked orange, indicating high levels of discrimination.

Conditions in 47 of these countries have worsened since the last report, while only nine showed signs of improvement, the report said.

There has been a marked increase in impunity over the past two years, ACN advocacy director Marcela Szymanski said at a virtual news conference to launch the report.

“Normally, the West would at least say something … ‘Oh, you don’t do this, or I’m going to look at you, I’m going to impose some sanctions, I’m going to reduce your trade facilities, etc.’ Now, what do they Didn’t do it either,” she said.

“People are deliberately turning a deaf ear and turning a blind eye to these dictators because they (Western leaders) need them.”

She went on to say that political leaders in Europe, the United States and elsewhere are often vulnerable to policy demands that easily undermine their commitment to civil rights and religious freedom.

U.S. President Joe Biden hosted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who departed on Saturday. spate of violence Unrest is underway in the northeastern state of Manipur.This visit took place at criticize The Biden administration has allegedly ignored serious violations of religious freedom in India.

Szymanski added: “It’s unbelievable that the countries you’re looking at (marked in red and orange)…are also countries with sustainable energy development and fossil fuel materials. So you’re in a very dangerous situation, both dependent on others and wishful thinking about principles.”

Half of the countries with the most restrictive restrictions on religious freedom are in Africa, and the rise in jihadism, particularly in the Sahel region, remains a cause for serious concern, according to CN Africa’s report. “But Asia — where China continues to seek to impose totalitarian control over all spheres of society, including religion, while India displays state-sponsored ethno-religious nationalism in the form of draconian anti-conversion laws — is also a particular concern. mainland.”

The study attributes this alarming trend to a variety of factors, including the global climate impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact of the war in Ukraine, military and economic concerns around the South China Sea, and the cost of living around the world .

The report highlights that dictators and leaders of fundamentalist groups see religious groups as threats to their power and authority to retain and consolidate power globally, saying they are found to be responsible for growing violations of religious freedom.

ACN pointed out that a series of tactics such as terrorist attacks, destruction of religious heritage and symbols, manipulation of electoral systems, mass surveillance, anti-conversion laws and financial restrictions have contributed to the oppression of religious communities.

The report also identified several important trends that emerged during the study period.

First, it highlights the emergence of “hybrid” cases of persecution, characterized by “polite” restrictions on religious freedom through controversial laws and the normalization of violent attacks against individuals of certain faiths. ACN explained that governments in various regions discriminate against religious communities by implementing laws that restrict religious freedom, and violent attacks against these communities go largely with impunity.

The report also notes that the profile of persecuted religious groups has changed, with majority religious groups now increasingly suffering persecution along with traditional minority communities. Countries such as Nigeria and Nicaragua have also seen this trend.

Another troubling aspect highlighted by the report is the lukewarm international response to violations of religious freedom by strategically important authoritarian regimes such as China and India. This growing culture of impunity has allowed major countries such as Nigeria and Pakistan to escape international sanctions despite serious violations against their citizens, the report noted.

The rise of “opportunistic caliphates”, especially in Africa, was also observed during the study period. Transnational jihadist networks have shifted tactics to focus on hit-and-run attacks, creating isolated communities in poorly defended rural areas with valuable mineral resources. This shift in strategy has led to heightened insecurity, insurgencies, and military coups in the affected areas.

The report further highlights divergent trends within the Muslim community, with disenfranchised young people increasingly being attracted to Islamic terrorist and criminal networks in Africa, while growing numbers of Muslims in Iran and elsewhere are considered irreligious person.

The Jewish community in the West has not been spared religious persecution either, with reports showing an increase in anti-Semitic hate crimes following the COVID-19 lockdowns, with reported incidents increasing from 582 in 2019 to 1,367 in 2021, the report said. Member States of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

The report goes on to say that kidnapping, sexual violence and forced religious conversions remain rampant in various regions, and with largely impunity, especially in West Africa and Pakistan. Rising poverty and armed conflict exacerbate kidnapping and human trafficking, disproportionately affecting women and girls belonging to religious minorities.

The report also sheds light on the manipulation of religious data by some countries as a means of maintaining political power. Religious groups seeking to maintain their status have inflated their numbers of believers by providing misleading information during official registration or by indefinitely postponing censuses. Lebanon, India and Malaysia are seen as examples of this trend.

In addition, the study revealed an increase in censorship and mass surveillance targeting faith-based groups, particularly in Western countries. Social media platforms are used to marginalize and target religious groups, undermining fundamental freedoms of conscience, thought, religion, expression, movement and assembly.

In Western countries, the emergence of “cancel culture” and “forced speech” further threatens religious freedom. Individuals who hold different views on religious grounds face harassment, legal threats, and job losses for not conforming to the prevailing ideology. Social media has played a major role in driving this trend.

The report highlights the insertion of derogatory content about minority beliefs in school textbooks in countries such as India and Pakistan, which could have profound consequences for future interfaith relations.

A surge in anti-conversion legislation and re-conversion initiatives has also been noted, particularly in Asia and North Africa. Stricter enforcement of existing laws and new legislation is aimed at consolidating the political power of the religious majority while providing economic benefits to those who join or return to the majority religion. When individuals convert or return, the welfare of entire families, especially in poorer areas, is compromised, CAN said.

Religious leaders and church personnel are increasingly being targeted by organized crime groups in Latin America, the report added. Those who defend the rights of immigrants and other vulnerable groups have been kidnapped and even murdered for speaking out and taking action against criminal gangs.

On a positive note, the report showed record attendance at mass religious celebrations in the wake of the COVID-19 lockdown. After years of restrictions, the return of major religious holidays has attracted millions of worshipers around the world as public expressions of popular religious belief.

Report concludes by highlighting global rise of authoritarian governments and fundamentalist leaders

This deadly impact on religious freedom is exacerbated by a culture of impunity, with perpetrators of religious persecution rarely facing prosecution in 36 countries. The international community’s silence on violations of religious freedom, especially in strategically important countries, contributes to this culture of impunity.

Africa remains the most violent continent for religious persecution, with jihadi attacks intensifying and spreading to neighboring countries. Nearly half of the “hotspot countries” identified in the RFR map are in Africa, with regions such as the Sahel, Lake Chad, Mozambique and Somalia being particularly affected.

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