“The report on religious freedom worldwide is important to remind us of the atrocities happening in many parts of our globe. And it has particular importance for those who suffer such violations.”

This is the view expressed by Professor Heiner Bielefeldt, the former UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, in connection with the latest report on Religious Freedom in the World published by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

Aid to the Church in Need will be formally presenting this document under the international title “Religious Freedom in the World Report 2021” (RFR) on April 29 in Malta and other countries as well.
Professor Heiner Bielefeldt is one of the authors of this report, which surveys the situation of religious freedom in all 196 countries of the world and covers all religious faiths and belief systems. Altogether, over 30 international experts and journalists have contributed to this report.

A theologian, philosopher and historian, Professor Heiner Bielefeldt was the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) from 2010 to 2016. Currently he holds the chair for Human Rights and Human Rights Policy at the University of Erlangen in Germany. Professor Bielefeldt observed that it is above all religious and ethnic minorities who suffer from abuses against religious freedom.

“We have witnessed violations of religious freedom of genocidal dimensions. In Xinjiang where the Uighurs are suffering enormous violations, hundreds of thousands of people reportedly being put in the detention camps. We have seen ethnic cleansing, with the Rohingya being driven out of their own country in Myanmar.”

He also noted the sufferings of the Christian communities in the Middle East who have seen similar violations of their right to religious freedom, and who “felt they had to leave the countries where they had spent their childhood, their youth, because they didn‘t see a future for the religious communities”.

Moreover, he added, “radical forces, fanatic forces, even tried to erase traces of the past, of the origins of Christendom in some countries of the Middle East.”

Speaking about the ACN report, Professor Bielefeldt remarked that it was “really important” for people suffering from such violations of freedom of religion, “that they can somehow trust that people somewhere on our common planet earth will think of me and maybe pray for me.”

He added that “the worst that can happen to a person is to be detained in a place, where he or she thinks ‘no one will ever know what happened to me. And I’m forgotten, I’m somehow an outcast of humanity thrown out of the human world’.”

Consequently, the ACN religious freedom report is “a source of hope for many people”.