By Robin Gomes
Some 61% of the world’s population live in countries where religious freedom is not respected; in other words, 6 out of every 10 people around the world cannot express their faith with total freedom. Among them are almost 300 million Christians, or 1 out of 7, who live in a country of persecution, subject to violence, arrest, and human rights violations.
These were some of the figures unveiled on Thursday in the “Religious Freedom Report” 2018 by “Aid to the Church in Need” (ACN), the international pontifical Catholic charity and foundation that helps persecuted Christians worldwide.
The report, released simultaneously in 23 ACN offices across the world, looks at 196 countries of the world, examining the degree to which the basic right to religious freedom, as defined in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is respected with regard to all the world’s major religious faiths.
The report that contains data between June 2016 to June 2018, shows grave violations of religious freedom in a total of 38 countries. In 17 of them there is serious discrimination on grounds of religious faith, and in the remaining 21, there is outright persecution of religious minorities, in some cases to the point of death.
The “Religious Freedom Report” reveals that in some of the worst countries on religious freedom, the situation has only deteriorated over the past two years. And on the global level in general, overall respect for religious freedom has also worsened.
The ACN study shows that in 22 countries, the reasons for attacks on religious freedom are rooted in radical Islamism, while in other countries the dominant causes are rooted in the authoritarianism of states or governments which pursue policies of “aggressive nationalism”. Among these countries are China, India, North Korea, Myanmar, Vietnam and Kyrgyzstan.
On a more positive note, the report pointed to an improved level of religious freedom for minorities in Syria and Iraq, following the military defeat of the Islamist terrorist group ISIS/ Daesh.