Global persecution of Christians and people from other minority religions is at its highest level for years, two major reports have found.
The 234-page annual report from the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) cited appalling religious and human rights abuses in countries such as China, Pakistan, North Korea and Burma (Myanmar).
It claimed, ‘For some, the last 20 years have been a chronicle spanning a generation of cruel and unrelenting treatment because of their beliefs’.
The report revealed 16 ‘Tier One’ countries where religious intolerance and persecution is at its height, and 12 where persecution is on the rise.
The 16, which have been labelled countries of particular concern, are where the USCIRF has found ‘systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom occurring’.
Christianity is the most persecuted-against religion, the report found, although other minorities such as the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar or Tibetan Buddhists and Falun Gong in China, are also at risk of ethnic cleansing.
Along with its in-depth reports on each country, the report has made a series of recommendations to the US government about each country, ranging from political discourse through to severe sanctions.
In the UK, a second report focusing particularly on persecution against Christians, commissioned by Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and carried out by the Bishop of Truro, has ‘painted a grim global picture’ already, if the interim report is anything to go by.
The interim report, published at Easter, said, ‘Based on reports from different non-governmental organisations (NGOs), it is estimated one third of the world’s population suffers from religious persecution in some form, with Christians being the most persecuted group’.
Kelsey Zorzi (pictured), president of the NGO committee on freedom of religion or belief and director of advocacy for global religious freedom at ADF international, said, ‘The international community cannot be silent where individuals are given death sentences for simply stating their beliefs or subject to persecution or discrimination in any other form based on their religion or beliefs. The [US] Commission’s report is a call to action’.
Ms Zorzi added, ‘Nobody should be persecuted because of their faith. With violence against believers on the rise around the world, it is vital nations strongly promote religious freedom and highlight those countries where it is most imperilled’.