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Religious Tolerance logo

Religious freedom

2011-JAN: Status of religious
freedom worldwide. Part 1

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  • "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, alone or in community with others, and, in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance." Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

    [Webmaster's comment: The UDHR has been signed by the vast majority of countries in the world, but fully implemented by none.]

  • "...the protection and promotion of religious freedom is a dynamic endeavor; it cannot be stated categorically that any government fully respected this right over the reporting year, even in the best of circumstances." From the preface to the International Religious Freedom Report 2010 by the U.S. State Department. 1

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Status of religious freedom in predominately Muslim countries:

On 2011-JAN-20, the Anglican Journal 2 republished a report by Lauren Markoe of the Religion News Service:

"The New Year's Day massacre at a Coptic church in Egypt. Christian converts facing the death penalty in Afghanistan. Swastikas painted on a Jewish synagogue in Venezuela.

As the headlines deliver fresh stories of the persecution of the [Christian] faithful, two recent reports by watchdog groups and a new book take a fresh look at the persistence of religious intolerance worldwide, with Muslim-majority nations facing particular criticism.

'Religious persecution is not only more prevalent among Muslim-majority countries, but it also generally occurs at more severe levels,' Roger Finke and Brian J. Grim write in their new book "The Price of Freedom Denied," published by Cambridge University Press. 3

Finke and Grim drew on annual reports by the U.S. State Department to conclude that religious persecution plagues all regions of the globe.

Studying 143 countries, they found that:

  • 86% of countries in recent years had cases of people physically abused or removed from their homes based on their religion.

  • High levels of government restrictions on religion were found in 78% of Muslim-majority nations, as opposed to 10% of Christian-majority nations, and 43% of other nations.

But there is nothing inherent in Islam that makes Muslim-majority countries poor guardians of religious freedom, Finke said, and Muslims themselves are also often the victims of religious intolerance.

Finke appears to be incorrect on this point. The Islamic holy book, the Qur'an, calls for religious freedom by saying that there shall be no compulsion in religion. However, the Qur'an is generally interpreted as forbidding Muslims from changing their religious identification from Islam to another religion. Some countries consider this a capital crime.

Markoe continues:

"As Westerners, we view Muslims as targeting us or other Christians. But when you look within these countries, much of the persecution is Muslim on Muslim,' said Finke, a sociologist of religion at Penn State. 'It's a battle over what type of Sharia law should be enacted, or who holds the reins of power in government.'

Open Doors, a California-based evangelical group that defends Christian rights globally, also finds Muslim-majority nations particularly hostile in its recently list of the most dangerous countries in which to practice Christianity.

While North Korea tops the list for the ninth consecutive year in the Open Doors report, eight of the top 10 offenders are Muslim-majority nations. North Korea is followed by Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Maldives, Yemen, Iraq, Uzbekistan and Laos.

Open Doors President Carl Moeller said he is particularly concerned about increasing violence against Christians in Iraq and Afghanistan; Iraq broke into the top 10 for the first time, up from No. 17, and showed the most dramatic deterioration for Christians.

'These are countries we sought to bring freedom to, and they don't enjoy the most basic freedom we have in our country -- religious freedom,' said Moeller, whose group devised a 50-question survey to rank countries.

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Religious groups threatened with extinction:

A new report focusing on the most vulnerable religious communities in the world was released by the non-denominational First Freedom Center. In "Minority Religious Communities At Risk," the Richmond, Virginia-based group identifies groups threatened with extinction within a decade:

They are: Orthodox Christians in Turkey, Jehovah's Witnesses in Eritrea, Jews in Arab lands, Jews in Venezuela, Nazarene Christians in Somalia, Masalit Muslims in Sudan, and Sabian Mandeans (a Christian sect) in Iraq. 4

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This topic is continued in Part 2

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Preface," International Religious Freedom Report 2010, U.S. State Department, 2010-NOV-17, at:
  2. "Muslim countries cited on religious freedom," Anglican Journal, 2011-JAN-20, at:
  3. Book cover image Brian J. Grim & Roger Finke, "The Price of Freedom Denied: Religious Persecution and Conflict in the 21st Century," Cambridge Studies in Social Theory, Religion and Politics," Cambridge University Press, (2010). Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store
  4. Ambassador Randolph Bell & Dr. Isabelle Kinnard Richman, "Minority Religious Communities at Risk," First Freedom Center, 2011-JAN, This is a PDF file.

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Site navigation: Home page > Religious freedom > here

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Copyright © 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2010-JAN-25
Latest update: 2011-JAN-30
Author: B.A. Robinson

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