The Religious Freedom in the World 2018 Report analyzes all 196 countries around the world and the dangers that faith minorities face, both at the hands of the government and hardline or terror groups.
The biannual report found some positive developments, such as the defeats and loss of power suffered by the Islamic State terror group in Iraq and Syria, but at the same time warned that “ultra-nationalism” around the world is causing a rise in hatred against minorities.
“Nationalism — especially from governments — became increasingly aggressive, with profoundly disturbing consequences for minority faith groups. This development, which can be termed ultra-nationalism, is especially significant because it is now dominant in China, Russia and India, world powers with growing influence around the world,” ACN says in its summary.
“Other governments are increasingly ultra-nationalist in their hostility to minority groups, notably the regime in Burma whose violence against the Rohingya Muslims has shocked human rights observers the world over. This publicity is the exception to the prevailing trend; a cultural curtain has fallen, behind which religious minorities suffer as the religiously illiterate West turns a blind eye,” it adds.
It warns that Europe and other Western countries have failed to initiate an agenda to defend religious liberty, and are displaying apathy toward the importance that people place on religion around the world.
The Catholic charity has also blamed Western media for failing to cover the dangers and consequences of Islamic extremism, other than the focus on IS and its affiliated groups. It accuses media of having ignored the spread of militant Islam in parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
Two countries examined by the report, namely North Korea and Saudi Arabia, were found to have such a bad record on religious freedom that it could hardly get worse.
Two other nations, Russia and Kyrgyzstan, were among those where religious freedom was deemed to be getting worse in the two-year period of analysis.
The report warned that Christians and other believers continue being subjected to violence, with danger from terrorists at an “universal, imminent and ever-present” level.
Religious Freedom in the World 2018 further argued that Islamophobia and anti-Semitism are on the rise in the West.
“Aggressive ultra-nationalism — be it by hard-line governments or violent extremist groups – means many minority faith groups feel like aliens in their own country. They are easy targets in a new era of ignorance and intolerance,” said Editor-in-Chief John Pontifex.
“True, there are some like the Rohingya Muslims, whose plight has received due attention in the West, but so many others — such as Christians in Nigeria, Ahmadis in Pakistan and Baha’is in Iran — feel abandoned by the West where religious freedom has slipped down the human rights priority rankings,” he added.
Back in July, the United States State Department hosted its first-ever Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, which included numerous testimonies from people of faith about the persecution they suffer in their countries.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vowed at the time that the ministerial would be “more than just talk,” and would lead to concrete steps of action.