The U.S. should be a leader in accepting refugees and victims of religious persecution, the report said. The nation should set a goal of accepting 100,000 Syrian refugees and should provide sufficient funding for the vetting of these refugees. Congress should also “reauthorize the Lautenberg Amendment” to accept beleaguered Iranian religious minorities fleeing persecution by the government there, the report insisted.
In Asia, thousands of the Rohingya people, a Muslim minority group of Burma, have been disenfranchised by their own government and have fled their homes, having no legal protection. There are 1 million displaced Rohingya, according to the report.
Refugees fleeing Africa, Syria, and Iraq, especially from the onslaught of Islamic State and Boko Haram, either flee to surrounding countries that have become strained from the large refugee population, or make a perilous journey across the Mediterranean into Europe. There they are met with an increasing hostility, especially Muslim immigrants who face a rising tide of Islamophobia.
Muslims in Europe are harassed for wearing public symbols of their religion such as headscarves and face cloths. They are even subject to violent attacks. Far-right political parties that profit from xenophobia against immigrants, Muslims, and Jews are rising in popularity.
Furthermore, the terror attacks in Paris and Brussels in 2015 and 2016 “produced backlashes against Muslims by members of the wider societies, many of who blame Muslims collectively, which is of course itself a terrible thing,” George said.
Laws restricting religious acts such as circumcision and halal slaughter of animals have surfaced in Denmark and Holland.
Xenophobia and hate crimes – particularly against Jews – are now being committed with “impunity” in Russia and are a problem throughout Europe, resulting in “an exponential rise in Jewish emigration from Europe,” the report stated. Jews are being targeted by secularists, far-right political parties, and “Islamist extremists who sought recruits from disaffected members of Muslim communities,” George said.
Other governments, including those of China, Iran, Russia, Eritrea and North Korea, are actively persecuting religious minorities and jailing people simply for expressing their religious beliefs.
“The existence of these prisoners [of conscience], people who are being jailed, beaten, tortured simply for expressing their conscientious religious beliefs or beliefs about religion, are an indictment of every government that holds them,” George stated.
In Iran, the number of persons from religious minorities imprisoned because of their beliefs has increased under the presidency of Hassan Rouhani, with Baha’is, Sunni Muslims, Christians, and dissenting Shia Muslims all targed.
In China, Bao Guohua, a Protestant pastor, and his wife received 14 and 12 years respectively in prison for leading an effort against the state’s desecration of churches. The bulldozing of unauthorized churches in China has become such a problem that another Protestant pastor and his wife were buried alive in their attempt to stop the bulldozing of a church: Li Jiangong survived, but his wife Ding Cuimei died.
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
In Saudi Arabia, blogger Raif Badawi was jailed in 2012 for on charges of “insulting Islam and religious authorities.” Just “for speaking his mind, speaking his conscience, he has been subjected to horrific abuse,” George said. Another Saudi, Ashraf Fayadh, was arrested for “promoting atheism.”
In Uzbekistan – where Islam is followed by more than 90 percent of the population and where religious groups must register activity with the government – more than 12,000 Muslims have been imprisoned for unsanctioned religious activity.
Another problem for religious freedom is anti-extremism laws, which are often used to crack down on religious minorities under the pretext of fighting terrorism and extremism.
In Russia, such laws have been used against Jehovah’s Witnesses and Muslims. The law requires no evidence for an accusation of religious violence, and so persons can be convicted and jailed simply for “proclaiming the truth or superiority” of their religion.
Governments enforcing these anti-extremism laws “often fuels the very extremism they are purporting to fight,” George explained, and fighting terrorism “becomes a pretext” for human rights abuses.
This is evidenced in China where the state’s actions against the Uyghurs, a Muslim ethnic minority of northwest China, “has simply fueled violence,” he noted.