Religious minorities in mass exodus
Religious extremists take control
In its annual report for 2014 the US Commission on International Religious Freedom states that in 2013 the world witnessed “the most far-reaching displacement of religious groups in recent times.” The report describes and analyzes the situation in countries where the conditions have been particularly serious, as in Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan.
Ed Brown, representing the Stefanus Alliance, expresses great concern to the newspaper Vårt Land. Referring to the Arab Spring events, he indicates that the process has created chaos and power vacuum, “Many Arab countries have been characterized by totalitarian regimes with high security, but little freedom. Now the pendulum has reversed. There has been a lot of freedom, but little security.” In this power vacuum religious extremist groups take advantage of the situation by controlling increasingly larger areas, conducting a brutal regime of oppression, discrimination and often killing of religious minorities.
Mariam Yahya Ibrahim is pregnant and The Court of Sudan finds her guilty of apostasy and adultery. She should be whipped with 100 strokes and then executed. The court refuses to accept that she is a Christian, brought up in a Christian Orthodox home, and judge her for conversion. The international community reacted strongly and helps that she is being flown out of the country, along with the infant she gave birth in prison.
There are thousands of similar and – unfortunately – even more serious violations of fundamental human rights.
The relationship to religion is a particular challenge when it comes to the protection of women’s human rights. Women and children are particularly vulnerable to violence and abuse when totalitarian regimes and extremist groups take power. But religious based oppression of women has also been a hot topic in recent decades in the public debate in well-established democracies both in west and east.
Religious freedom creates security
Religious freedom includes the right of all people to think what they want, believe what they want or having no faith at all. Free exercise of religious activity ensures freedom of thought and utterance. It ensures that no government, no group or individual has the right to force anyone to act against their conscience or restrict anyone from following their conviction.
There is a strong concern in many countries that extreme religious terrorist groups are gaining ground in the country. Some countries take comprehensive control of religious communities, introducing strict registration requirements and impose restrictions on religious activities to prevent religiously motivated violence. This is obviously the wrong way to go. The police and the courts must take care of threats and criminal behavior. But it is through openness, tolerance and diversity that a social security can be build to prevent extreme ideas and attitudes to take root.