ALEXANDRIA, Virginia — The Coalition for the Defense of Human Rights gathered on Saturday to review the sad state of religious liberty around the globe. Led by Keith Roderick of Christian Solidarity International, the group painted a depressing portrait of religious persecution worldwide.
The news was uniformly bad: the mistreatment of Coptic Christians in Egypt, virtual destruction of the Christian community in Iraq, afflictions visited upon Christians in Lebanon, and deteriorating conditions facing Buddhists and Hindus as well as Christians in Bangladesh and Pakistan.
Obviously, religious liberty is one of the most threatened human rights. Yet even as they persecute religious minorities in their midst, Muslim states are waging an effort through the United Nations (naturally!) to punish other religious believers who defame (that is, question) Islam — in the name of protecting “religion.”
The problem of religious persecution is pervasive. For instance, in its newly released annual report, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, a State Department advisory panel, cites Russia, Turkey, and Iraq.
There is in Russia a “rise in xenophobia and ethnic and religious intolerance,” including “violent attacks and other hate crimes.” In the name of anti-terrorism the Russian government has harassed “individual Muslims and Muslim communities.”
Legislation has targeted human rights groups and “non- commercial organizations, including religious groups.” Moreover, the Commission pointed to “continued restrictions by Russian authorities on the exercise of freedom of religion or belief, particularly at the regional and local levels.”
As for Turkey, the Commission cited restrictions on the display of Islamic beliefs in the public square. Moreover, the Commission highlighted “state actions that effectively prevent religious minority communities from maintaining themselves, denying them full property rights, including the right to own and maintain property, and to train religious clergy.”
Of particular concern are “incidents of anti-minority violence, especially against Greek Orthodox, Catholics and Protestants, as well as growing anti-Semitism in some sectors of the country.” Evidence of this problem was the recent, gruesome torture-murder of three Christians by Islamists.p>Far worse, however, is the situation in Iraq. As the security situation has deteriorated, religiously-oriented violence has increased dramatically. Notes the Commission: br> /p>
[S]uccessive Iraqi governments have not curbed the growing scope and severity of human rights abuses. Instead, in the past year, there has been a dramatic increase in sectarian violence between Arab Sunni and Shi’a factions, combined with religiously-motivated human rights abuses targeting non-Muslims, secular Arabs, women, homosexuals, and other vulnerable groups, on which the Commission has previously reported. Although the Sunni-dominated insurgency and foreign jihadi groups are responsible for a substantial proportion of the sectarian violence and associated human rights abuses, Iraq’s Shi’a-dominated government bears responsibility for the actions it engages in, as well as for tolerating abuses committed by Shi’a militias with ties to political factions in the governing coalition.br> The problem is ongoing. At the Coalition meeting, Peter BetBasoo of the Assyrian International News Agency reported on a Baghdad neighborhood in which Muslim fundamentalists recently told Christian families to move, convert, pay protection money, or turn over a daughter for marriage. As many as half of Iraq’s pre-invasion Christians have fled, primarily to Syria and Jordan, where they live in extraordinarily difficult circumstances.
RELIGIOUS MINORITIES SUFFER BADLY in a score of other nations. The Commission designated 11 states as “Countries of Particular Concern.” The title may sound goofy, but it represents brutal repression in Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkemenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.
Burma conducts murderous military operations against ethnic groups, such as the Karen and Karenni, seeking autonomy. Many of the resistors are Christians. Jim Jacobson of Christian Freedom International decries “genocidal persecution at the hands of the Burmese military.” Moreover, notes the Commission, “The government imposes restrictions on certain religious practices, controls and censors all religious publications, has supported, allowed, or instigated violence against religious minorities, and in some areas of the country, has forcefully promoted Buddhism over other religions.”
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