More than 60 percent of the world’s population of more than 7.5 billion reside in countries where the right to religious freedom is obstructed or denied. An estimated 505 million Christians face persecution for following their faith, a Catholic NGO Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) report indicated this week.
“For simply belonging to the ‘wrong’ religion, countless numbers of people have been killed; many others have disappeared and still more have been imprisoned indefinitely,” John Pontifex, the report’s editor-in-chief, said.
On Thursday, a press release on the 14th edition of ACN’s Religious Freedom in the World Report, which this year covers all religions in 196 countries over a two-year period up to and including June 2018, declared:
The report—noting that respect for religious freedom is on the decline worldwide—finds that 61 percent of the world’s population live in countries where the right to religious freedom is obstructed or denied outright. The report estimates that some 327 million Christians live in countries where they face religious persecution, with another 178 million suffering some form of discrimination because of their faith.
ACN found non-state actors in countries like India, China, and Myanmar have exacerbated a boost in hatred against faith minorities.
Citing an increase in “aggressive ultra-nationalism” in countries like India and Russia — by either hard-line governments or violent extremist groups — ACN reports that religious freedom is declining in one out of every five nations in the globe, which amounts to a total of 38.
Of the 38 countries, ACN discovered incidents of religious persecution in 21, including Niger, Myanmar, India, and China, as well as acts of discrimination in 17 other countries, such as Algeria, Turkey, and Russia.
Examining every country worldwide in turn, this report found evidence of significant religious freedom violations in 38 nations (19.3 percent). These 38 countries were examined in more detail with the following conclusions drawn: First, 21 (55 percent) were placed in the top ‘Persecution’ category and the remaining 17 (45 percent) in the less serious ‘Discrimination’ category. This means that worldwide, 11 percent of countries were ranked at the level of ‘Persecution’ and 9 percent at the level of ‘Discrimination.’
Second, the situation concerning religious freedom deteriorated in 18 of the 38 (47.5 percent) countries, split roughly evenly between the ‘Persecution’ and ‘Discrimination’ categories. Third, that 18 of the 38 countries – 47.5 percent – showed no obvious sign of change between 2016 and 2018.
According to ACN, the easing of tensions in Syria and Iraq following the weakening of the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) at the hands of international forces and local fighters allowed thousands of Christians to return to their homes, making those two countries the only place where religious freedom conditions improved.
However, the NGO noted, “The situation for minority faith groups deteriorated in 18 of the 38 countries – almost half – found to have significant religious freedom violations. [An] especially serious decline was noted in [two of the most populous nations in the world] China and India.”
ACN went on to note that the persecution of Christians and other religions in countries like North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Eritrea is “already so bad, it could scarcely get any worse.”