In some corners of the world, Christian persecution is apparently on the rise, fueled, as The Guardian recently put it, “by Islamic extremism and repressive governments,” notes Jonathan Fox, a Professor of Political Studies at Bar Ilan University, a senior fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. The report (and others like it) notes that extremists persecute Christians and non-Christians alike, but it leaves the impression that this trend is recent and primarily concerns Christians living in the Muslim world, notes Fox, the author of The Unfree Exercise of Religion: A Worldwide Survey of Discrimination against Religious Minorities and Political Secularism, Religion, and the State: A Time Series Analysis of Worldwide Data.
That is incorrect: religious discrimination is an equal opportunity endeavor, he writes for Foreign Affairs:
There is little doubt that religious freedom is under serious threat in many Muslim-majority countries. Some of the world’s most repressed religious minorities include Egypt’s Christian Coptic minority; the Baha’i in Iran; the Ahmadis in Pakistan; and Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, and Shiite Muslims in Saudi Arabia. In these places, religious repression has been a ubiquitous fact of life for years, irrespective of a person’s creed. Yet religious repression is not limited to the autocratic Muslim-majority governments.
The Religion and State Project (which I head) tracks religious freedom across the globe and has established a number of clear patterns of pan-religious persecution dating as far back as 1990—the year when the project began tracking religious freedom. Of the 30 specific types of limitations tracked by the Religion and State Project, 28 are now more common than in 1990. Proselytizing, for example, is now restricted by 99 countries around the world, compared with 79 in 1990. Meanwhile, 82 countries, including Austria, Belarus, China, and Russia, require people from minority religions to register with the state, compared with 60 in 1990. Further, 73 countries limit places of worship from being erected, and 65 restrict public observance of religion. In 1990, those numbers were 53 and 36, respectively.
International Religious Freedom: An Embattled Right
Tuesday, September 15, 2015
12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Join Freedom House for a conversation about worsening global conditions for freedom of religion or belief with Dr. Robert George, Chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Freedom House President Mark P. Lagon will moderate this conversation.
Dr. Robert George currently serves as the Chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent U.S. government advisory body that monitors religious freedom worldwide and makes policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and the Congress. USCIRF’s 2015 Annual Report documented religious freedom violations in 33 countries and made country-specific recommendations for U.S. policy.
Chairman George will discuss how individuals in a number of countries suffer from government repression of their religious freedoms or are targeted by religious extremists with violence. Numerous states and non-state actors not only seek to deny people their freedoms of conscience and worship, but subject them to violent retribution for trying to exercise them. This situation speaks volumes about how religious freedom holds a central place among human rights, affecting the safety, security, and survival of the persecuted and vulnerable.
Lunch will be served at noon. The program will begin at 12:30 p.m.