A Christian community protest in Pakistan against violence A Christian community protest in Pakistan against violence  (ANSA)

Pope: Stop using God's name to justify murder and terrorism

"I renew my appeal to stop using religions to incite hatred, violence, extremism, and blind fanaticism and to refrain from using the name of God to justify acts of murder, exile, terrorism, and oppression" is the Pope's tweet on the occasion of the UN International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence based on Religion or Belief observed on August 22.

By Fr. Paweł Rytel-Andrianik 

Religious freedom has recently been violated in countries with more than half of the world's population, according to a report by the Pontifical Foundation Aid to the Church in Need International (Kirche in Not), which for years has been studying the problem of religious freedom around the world and helping victims of acts of violence based on religion or belief. Florian Ripka, Director of Kirche in Not Deutschland, tells Vatican Radio about the primary reasons for the persecution.

He points out that increased violations of all human rights, including religious freedom, have been caused worldwide by the maintenance and consolidation of power in the hands of autocrats and leaders of fundamentalist groups.

"The second reason is related to the Islamist countries. "We are concerned about what is happening in sub-Saharan Africa, in countries like Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali, and Mozambique. In all these countries, we see that the governments are taking less and less action against associations like Boko Haram and the followers of the so-called Islamic State."

"And the third reason why the human rights of religious freedom are violated are ultra-nationalistic countries as we have in India." He adds that there is a difference between the north of India and the south, for instance, in Kerela, where, on the whole, there is religious liberty.

Hybrid types of persecution

Aid to the Church in Need International also notes hybrid types of persecution, i.e., "the iron fist in a velvet glove" and the bloodthirsty kind. Some countries apply controversial laws restricting religious freedom or discriminating against specific religious communities, generally without protest. On the other hand, violent attacks on followers of the "wrong" religion have been "normalized" and mainly not prosecuted (e.g., in Latin America).

Typically, most religious groups experiencing persecution are from minority religious communities. However, most religious communities are increasingly experiencing persecution (Nigeria, Nicaragua).

In developed countries, social media have been used to marginalize and attack religious groups. Such incidents have undermined fundamental values, including freedom of conscience, thought, religion, expression, movement, and assembly.

After the pandemic, most regions of the world saw a return in large numbers of the faithful to celebrate significant religious festivals, which are public expressions of religiosity.

Aid to the Church in Need International notes that interreligious dialogue initiatives have increased. Pope Francis and other Church leaders worldwide have expanded their relations with other religious communities, as exemplified by the encyclical Fratelli Tutti and many interreligious meetings.

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22 August 2023, 17:30