Global state of religious freedom is ‘dire’

The state of religious freedom around the world is “increasingly dire”, according to the chairperson of a United States agency that monitors threats to this human right.

The reasons include the rise of violent religious extremism and the actions and inactions of governments, according to Dr Katrina Lantos Swett of the US Commission for International Religious Freedom.

“Extremists target religious minorities and dissenters from majority religious communities for violence, including physical assaults and even murder,” she said.

“Authoritarian governments also repress religious freedom through intricate webs of discriminatory rules, arbitrary requirements and draconian edicts.”

In its latest report, the commission lists 15 countries of particular concern: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Uzbekistan, Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Vietnam.

All of these nations, it says, severely restrict independent religious activity and harass individuals and groups for religious activity or beliefs.

Examples include sectarian violence against minority Christians and Muslims in Burma, repression of non-state religious groups in China, and Iran’s imprisonment of Christians on account of their faith.

In both Pakistan and Nigeria, the report says, religious extremism and impunity have factored into unprecedented levels of violence that threaten the long-term viability of both nations.

A second tier of countries is named, where there are also serious and troubling violations of religious liberty. These countries are Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Laos and Russia.

The report also highlights the status of religious liberty in other countries that do not fall into either of the two tiers. These nations and regions include: Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Ethiopia, Turkey, Venezuela and the entirety of Western Europe.

Some signs of hope were seen. The report noted that Turkey is “moving in a positive direction with regard to religious freedom”.


Catholic News Agency

United States Commission on International Religious Freedom

Image: Religious Freedom Coalition

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