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The International Religious Freedom Report 2015

13.05.2015

 

Bern, Switzerland [A. Mazza, CD EUD News, USCIRF]. May 13, 2015.

Humanitarian crises fueled by waves of terror, intimidation, and violence have engulfed an alarming number of countries in the year since the release of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom’s (USCIRF) prior Annual Report last May. The previous quotations highlight five of these nations – Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Central African Republic, and Burma – and the horrific loss of human life, freedom, and dignity that has accompanied the chaos.

A horrified world has watched the results of what some have aptly called violence masquerading as religious devotion.

In both Iraq and Syria, no religious group has been free of ISIL’s depredations in areas it has conquered. ISIL has unleashed waves of terror upon Yazidis and Christians, Shi’a and Sunnis, as well as others who have dared to oppose its extremist views. When ISIL last June overtook Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, it immedi- ately murdered 12 dissenting Sunni clerics, kidnapped Christian priests and nuns, and leveled ancient houses of worship. The recent discovery of mass graves under- scores the extent of the atrocities ISIL has perpetrated on foes of its reign.

More than half a million Mosul residents have fled their homes. When ISIL seized Sinjar, the Yazidis’ ances- tral homeland, 200,000 were forced to flee. In Syria, ISIL’s horrors are replicated by those of other religious extremist groups and the Assad government.

Yazidis and Christians have borne the worst brunt of the persecution by ISIL and other violent religious extremists. From summary executions to forced con- versions, rape to sexual enslavement, abducted children to destroyed houses of worship, attacks on these communities are part of a systematic effort to erase their presence from the Middle East.

In Nigeria, Boko Haram has attacked both Muslims and Christians. From mass murders at churches and mosques to mass kidnappings of children from schools, Boko Haram has cut a wide path of terror across vast swaths of Nigeria.

There is perhaps no more visible testament to the human toll of these depredations than the millions of people who have been forced to flee their homes. In Iraq, 2 million people were internally displaced in 2014 as a result of ISIL’s offensive. More than 6.5 million of Syria’s pre-civil-war population now is internally dis- placed, and more than 3.3 million more are refugees in neighboring states. In Nigeria, Boko Haram’s rampages are responsible for the displacement of more than
one million individuals. In Central African Republic,
a million or more people have been driven from their homes. And in Burma, 140,000 Rohingya Muslims
and at least 100,000 largely Kachin Christians remain internally displaced.

By any measure, the horrors of the past year speak volumes about how and why religious freedom and the protection of the rights of vulnerable religious communities matter. Those responsible for the horrors have made the case better than anybody can.

For humanitarian reasons alone, the world dare not remain silent in the face of the long trail of abuses committed in these and other countries.

All nations should care about abuses beyond their borders not only for humanitarian reasons but because what goes on in other nations rarely remains there. Standing for the persecuted against the forces of violent religious extremism is not just a moral imperative; it is a practical necessity for any country seeking to protect its security and that of its citizens.

To be sure, embedding religious freedom and other human rights in a society often can seem a herculean task, but it is a vital one.

And so we must stand tall for religious freedom as an antidote to religious extremism, an aid to security, and a universal right of humanity.

Religious freedom has been a priority of the Adventist Church since its origins in the mid-1800s, and the church has long defended the rights of Sabbath-keepers and other religious minorities. Those efforts have been particularly visible in the past few decades as the General Conference, the administrative body of the Adventist world church, has built up its Religious Liberty department - first led by Bert B. Beach, afterwards by Dr. John Graz.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church plays a major role in defending Religious Liberty all over the world, through its worldwide associations (www.irla.org / www.aidlr.org ). Adventists are well known as global leaders in protecting Religious Freedom.

"God has gifted every human being with Dignity. There is no Liberty without Dignity. It is our privilege and duty to protect and promote it", so the EUD Public Relations Department of the Inter-European Department.

To read the entire Report, please click here.

 

Pictures: 1. Freedom of religion by country (Pew Research Center study, 2009). 2. Oscar Straus Memorial in Washington, honoring the right to worship (Wikipedia).

 

By: CD EUD News, USCIRF, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom