The United States has released an alarming country-by-country analysis of religious freedom which shows us that 2013 was one of the worst years for the displacement of entire religious communities around the world.
A comprehensive report from the State Department assesses the state of religious freedom in nearly 200 countries.
Commenting on the findings, Kenneth Hackett, U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, quoted by the agency Rome Reports, says that “Religious freedom takes a lot of interpretation. In our own countries there are some very fine lines on interpretation. But the actual persecution of people because of their religion is one of the horrors of our day.”
Ambassador Hackett’s observation on “fine lines of interpretation” would seem to be heading off any criticism of “our own countries” for what many consider infringments of freedom of conscience in recent legislation on moral issues – marriage, euthanasia, abortion, contraception – in jurisdictions like the US itself, Ireland, Britain and Belgium.
The report, concentrating on persecution at the extreme end of the spectrum, highlighted areas where entire communities are targeted simply for their religion. It recorded increased persecution of Christians in 2013, noting that in countries like Syria, Egypt and Iraq, entire Christian communities have been decimated by violence.
The report also details repressive government policies against Christians and other minorities in places like Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan and Pakistan.
The Vatican has also expressed concern for these policies. Msgr. Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, President of the Pontifical Academies for Sciences, said:
“First off, the Holy See wants to warn the world about the issue. Second, to work with Christians so they stay. And third, to get the universal Church to pray and take social actions to stop persecution.”
Ambassador Hackett pointed out that the report highlights the plight of all religious communities, not just Christians. Whether it’s rising anti-Semitism in Europe or discrimination against Shia Muslims in countries like Bahrain, Ambassador Hackett said the U.S. and the Holy See have a a common stance. Mr. Hackett continued, saying that “Wherever we can, we want to find a common cause with the Church, and the Holy See itself, on issues of religious persecution of all people, not just Christians. It’s for all people, and the Holy See has been a loud and abiding voice for those kinds of concerns.”
American agencies will use the latest report on religious freedom to help determine U.S. policy in those countries, and determine the best way to help promote religious freedom.