Nearly one third of the world’s countries, where two thirds of the world’s population live, violate religious freedom, the pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) reported Tuesday.
Christians are the most persecuted group in the world, according to ACN’s Religious Freedom in the World Report 2021, an 818-word compendium of the state of religious freedom and persecution in the world today.
Persecution on the grounds of religious belief is a growing global phenomenon, the biennial report declares, and religious freedom violations have accelerated and expanded to the point where “systematic and egregious attacks are coming from governments, lynching mobs, as well as international terror groups,” such as Boko Haram or the Islamic State.
The report found the populations of 62 countries out of a total of 196 face “very severe violations of religious freedom,” adding that the number of people living in these countries “is close to 5.2 billion, as the worst offenders include some of the most populous nations in the world (China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nigeria).”
Moreover, during the past two years since the publication of ACN’s last report, “there has been a significant increase in the severity of religiously motivated persecution and oppression which is the principal category of concern,” the report noted.
A new category in this year’s report is the notion of “polite persecution,” a term used to describe the rise of new “rights” or cultural norms that conflict with and often supersede the right to religious freedom, seeking to consign religions to “the enclosed precincts of churches, synagogues or mosques.”
“These new cultural norms, enshrined in law, result in an individual’s rights to freedom of conscience and religion coming into a profound conflict with the legal obligation to comply with these laws,” the report stated.
The ACN report distinguishes between intolerance, discrimination, persecution, and genocide. Persecution “might be an active programme or campaign to exterminate, drive away, or subjugate people based on membership of a religious group” or may be “perpetrated by single individuals,” it stated.
Acts of persecution need not be “systematic” nor occur following a strategy, the report asserted.