ACN’s new Religious Freedom Report warns of global impact of religious “hyper-extremism”
Religious Fundamentalism – more lethal than ever seen before – is unleashing death, destruction, displacement and instability at unprecedented levels, according to a report out today.
The Religious Freedom in the World 2016 report, produced by Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, warns of the global impact of “a new phenomenon of religiously-motivated violence”, which it terms “Islamist hyper-extremism”.
In defining this new ultra-extremism, the report highlights distinguishing features which are described as evidence of the radicals’ threat to world peace, stability and social harmony in the West.
Key characteristics of “Islamist hyper-extremism” include systematic attempts to drive out all dissenting groups – including moderates, unprecedented levels of cruelty, global reach and the effective use of social media, often used to glamorise violence.
Adding its voice to calls for Daesh (ISIS) persecution to be recognised as genocide, the report’s authors warn of a widespread attempt to replace pluralism with a religious mono-culture.
The report, which assesses the situation regarding religious freedom in each of the world’s 196 countries, concludes: “In parts of the Middle East including Iraq and Syria, this hyper-extremism is eliminating all forms of religious diversity and is threatening to do so in parts of African and the Asian Sub-Continent.”
This is echoed in the report’s foreword by Father Jacques Mourad, a Christian monk who was held by Daesh in Syria for five months before escaping in October 2015.
Fr Mourad writes: “Our world teeters on the brink of complete catastrophe as extremism threatens to wipe out all trace of diversity in society.”
The biennial report, which draws on research by journalists, academics and clergy, records that in the two-year period under review which ended in June, attacks linked to “hyper-extremism” had taken place in one out of five countries worldwide – from Australia to Sweden as well as 17 African countries.
Countering the popular view that governments are mostly to blame for persecution, the report puts the blame on non-state militants in 12 of the 23 worst-offending countries.
With refugee numbers at a new high of 65.3 million according to the UN, the report describes extremist Islamism as a “key driver” in the massive displacement of people fleeing countries such as Afghanistan, Somalia and Syria.
The Aid to the Church in Need report goes on to highlight the knock-on effect on countries in the West whose socio-religious fabric is being destabilised by the arrival of unprecedented numbers of refugees.
Such problems are, according to the report, compounded by the West falling victim to a sudden increase in fundamentalist Islamist attacks.
But, according to the report, not all problems regarding religious freedom are to do with militant Islam – with a “renewed crackdown” on religious groups reported in China and Turkmenistan and an ongoing denial of human rights for people of faith in worst-offending North Korea and Eritrea.
Nor is the outlook universally bleak – looking at Bhutan, Egypt and Qatar, countries notorious for religious freedom violations, the report found that the situation had improved for faith minorities during the period under review.
John Pontifex, London-based Editor-in-Chief of the report, said: “A core finding of our research is the emergence of a form of religious hyper-extremism which has left many parts of the world scarred by its savagery, which is the hallmark of its evident genocidal intent.
“Our report is a wake-up call both to highlight that extremism has entered a new and entirely more dangerous phase, and the role of the West
“If there is just one finding of the Religious Freedom in the World 2016 report it is that faith groups need to tackle hatred within their own ranks.
“What prospects are there for peace when powerful sections within specific faith groups have nothing but contempt for those who do not share their world view – and who deny the right to life not just to people of other faiths but also to moderates from among their own community?”
“The other problem borne out in the report is that Western policy makers frequently just don’t get religion and need to rethink their whole outlook.
“It’s no longer compatible to say that traditional faith practice belongs to the past when the evidence shows that for millions and millions of people – a new generation – religion is at the centre of their lives, driving everything they do.
This is the 13th edition of the report, which is produced by Aid to the Church in Need.