The persecution of Christians goes hand-in-hand with some important and disturbing trends taking place around the world, according to a global network representing more than 335 million Christians from 121 nations and over 100 international organizations.
In a recent document on international religious freedom presented to the UN Commission on Human Rights, the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) “note[d] with great concern the alarming trend to linking nationalism to a particular religion.”
“Clearly if one religion is linked with national identity, religious minorities are excluded,” the WEA reported. “This is a major source of Christian persecution and an enemy of religious freedom.”
The WEA, which recently participated in the work of the 61st UN Commission on Human Rights, stated in its report titled “A Perspective On Global Religious Freedom: Challenges Facing The Christian Community” that countries influenced by Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism had all recently seen their share of this form of religious intolerance in various expressions.
“In some cases, we see it with the face of government sponsored religious nationalism, and in others, with that of non-government factions engaged in extremist activities, often with the tacit approval of their governments,” the global ministry stated. “In its various expressions, the use of political might to enforce religious conformity continues to be a disturbing trend around the world.”
One “frightening and increasingly common” tool of this form of intolerance is the application of national religious law to control and restrict citizens’ freedom. According to the WEA, Christian minority groups continue to be targeted, and suffer discrimination and persecution because of this growing trend. Laws such as Pakistan’s "blasphemy laws," Sri Lanka’s, Saudi Arabia's and United Arab Emirates' "anti-conversion" laws, and Saudi Arabia and Iran’s wide-reaching "Shari’a law" criminalize the beliefs and activities of Christians and other religious minorities, the ministry claimed. Therefore the laws have led to widespread and often violent persecution of minorities in those countries.
The WEA also noted with particular concern the number of countries whose governments have set up a registration process for religious groups. It stated that registration systems provide possible venues for governments to utilize excessive power and can be used to violate human rights norms set out in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
“Many Christian groups face rigorous challenges or are simply denied governmental approval and therefore are forced to operate illegally at the mercy of the government officials,” according to the WEA.
In China, for example, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) reportedly restrains religious practice to government-sanctioned organizations and registered places of worship, fearing any organization that may threaten their authority. Sources say organizations that do not register with the government are considered illegal, though many groups are denied authorization and are thus forced to operate illegally.
Government officials monitor and judge the legitimacy of all religious activity and teachings of registered groups, the WEA stated in its report. The CCP often requires leaders of registered religious groups to publicly endorse the government's actions and policies or publicly denounce unregistered groups. Though the level of religious intolerance varies from region to region, religious minorities tend to be perceived as "cultish" and for simply engaging in their religious practices risk facing intimidation, harassment, torture, "re-education" in labor camps and in some cases, death.
“As incidents of persecution by religious intolerance against minority groups continue to increase around the world, we strongly urge the members of the Commission to monitor these laws and the development of religious intolerance,” the WEA continued.
“We further urge the members of the Commission to take measures to actively protect and promote religious freedom.”
Among those countries listed in the WEA report as countries of particular concern, the ministry listed Burma/Myanmar, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam.