Religious Fundamentalism—more lethal than ever before—is unleashing death, destruction, displacement and instability at unprecedented levels, according to a report out today.
The Religious Freedom in the World 2016 report, produced by international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, warns of the global impact of “a new phenomenon of religiously-motivated violence—‘Islamist hyper-extremism.’” The report points to the Islamic State (ISIS) as the prime example.
Key characteristics of “Islamist hyper-extremism” include systematic attempts to drive out all dissenting groups—including moderates, unprecedented levels of cruelty, global reach and the effective use of social media, often used to glamorise violence.
The report, which assesses the situation regarding religious freedom in each of the world’s 196 countries, charges: “In parts of the Middle East, including Iraq and Syria, this hyper-extremism is eliminating all forms of religious diversity and is threatening to do so in parts of African and the Asian sub-continent.”
In an introduction to the report, Father Jacques Mourad—a Christian monk who was held by ISIS in Syria for five months before escaping in October 2015—writes that “our world teeters on the brink of complete catastrophe as extremism threatens to wipe out all trace of diversity in society.”/p>
Compiled every two years, the report, which draws on research by journalists, academics and clergy, records that in the two-year period under review which ended last June, attacks linked to “hyper-extremism” had taken place in one out of five countries worldwide—from Australia to Sweden as well as 17 African countries.
With refugee numbers at a new high of 65.3 million according to the UN, the report describes extremist Islamism as a “key driver” in the massive displacement of people fleeing countries such as Afghanistan, Somalia and Syria. The report also highlights the impact on countries in the West, whose socio-religious fabric is being destabilised by the challenge of having to absorb unprecedented numbers of refugees.
However, the report stresses that not all problems regarding religious freedom are linked to militant Islam—with a “renewed crackdown” on religious groups reported in China and Turkmenistan and an ongoing denial of human rights for people of faith in worst-offending North Korea and Eritrea.
Nor is the outlook universally bleak – looking at Bhutan, Egypt and Qatar, countries notorious for religious freedom violations, the report found that the situation had improved for faith minorities during the period under review.
Bishop Gregory Mansour, who heads the Maronite Eparchy of St. Maron in Brooklyn, New York, and serves on the Advisory Board of ACNUSA, expressed hope that the report will “help the Trump Administration in developing a strategy to step up US support for persecuted religious minorities around the world—in particular the Christians in Iraq and Syria.”
The ‘Religious Freedom in the World’ 2016 report’ is available at www.religion-freedom-report.org
To read the Executive Summary of the Report, please click here.
Aid to the Church in Need is an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the Holy See, providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries. www.churchinneed.org (USA); www.acnuk.org (UK); www.aidtochurch.org (AUS); www.acnireland.org (IRL); www.acn-aed-ca.org (CAN) www.acnmalta.org (Malta)