The 2021 report finds notorious persecutions against religious practice in 62 out of the 196 countries studied – in other words, all countries – or one in three countries, against one in five for the previous edition, published in 2018.
The study details by speaking of persecution in 26 countries – nearly half of which are in Africa – and discrimination in 36 others (respectively in red and orange on the map). Combined, the two categories account for two-thirds of the world’s population, or around 5.2 billion people.
The situation is particularly dramatic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, Libya, and even in the countries of the Sahel, which has become the world’s second epicenter of Islamist terrorism.
“In Burkina Faso, only 30% of the territory escapes terrorists, who fall into three main categories: groups under Arab leadership – Aqmi, Mujao, and Signatories by blood -, Tuareg groups, including the MNLA and Ansar Dine, and groups under black leadership, such as the Macina Liberation Front and Boko Haram,” explains Fr. Victor Ouedraogo, director of the diocesan communication center in Ouagadougou.
Significant elements that explain this sharp increase
The ACN offers a 10-point in-depth analysis of the reasons that may explain this expansion.
1. Transnational jihadist networks spanning across the Equator aspire to become transcontinental “caliphates.” The Islamic State and Al-Qaeda, thanks to the ideological and material support of the Middle East, join forces with local armed militias and radicalize them even more, in order to establish “caliphate provinces” along the Equator. Increasing jihadist violence is spreading from Mali to Mozambique in Sub-Saharan Africa, to the Comoros in the Indian Ocean, and all the way to the Philippines in the South China Sea.
2. A globally expanding “cyber-caliphate” is now an established tool for online recruitment and radicalization in the West. Islamist terrorists are using sophisticated digital technologies to recruit, radicalize, and attack.
3. Religious minorities are being blamed as being responsible for the pandemic. Pre-existing societal prejudices against religious minorities in countries like China, Niger, Turkey, Egypt, and Pakistan have led to increased discrimination during the pandemic.
4. Authoritarian governments and fundamentalist groups have intensified religious persecution. In the predominantly Hindu and Buddhist countries of Asia, religious nationalism, manipulated by governments, has led to the rise of majoritarian ethnoreligious supremacism. These movements have further oppressed religious minorities, reducing them to the status of de facto second-class citizens.
5. Sexual violence is being used as a weapon against religious minorities. Young girls and women have been abducted, raped, and forced to change their religion. These crimes have been recorded in a growing number of countries. These violations, often committed with impunity, reveal a strategy to hasten the long-term disappearance of certain religious groups.
6. Law enforcement technologies are increasingly targeting faith groups. A system of 626 million artificial intelligence-enhanced surveillance cameras and smartphone scanners, cross-checked by analytical platforms and coupled with an integrated social credit system, ensures that religious leaders and the faithful respect the edicts of the Chinese Communist Party.
7. 30.4 million Muslims in China and Myanmar (including Uyghurs and Rohingyas) face severe persecution.
8. The West has abandoned the tools capable of reducing radicalization.
9. “Polite Persecution”. This term reflects the rise of new “rights” or cultural norms. These new cultural norms, enshrined in law, result in an individual’s rights to freedom of conscience and religion coming into a profound conflict with the legal obligation to comply with these laws.
10. Interfaith dialogue – a new impetus from the Vatican. In particular the declaration on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together signed by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam Ahamad Al-Tayyib of Al-Azar, leader of the Sunni Muslim world.
This last point is deeply illusory, as revealed by the Pope’s trip to Iraq, a predominantly Shiite country. It is not Vatican diplomacy that will be able to bring together the two irreconcilable tendencies of Islam; nor prevent radicalization, which is part of the genetics of the Muslim religion, inscribed as it is, both in the Koran and in tradition – the hadith. See the study on “Knowledge of Islam” in our documents.
What to conclude from this report?
One only needs to be attentive to see that the instigating persecutors are essentially: Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and the Chinese Marxist government. Without forgetting the totalitarianism of “political correctness,” which comes under the devious form of “polite persecution.”
Faced with this persecution, Catholics have no other solution than to be witnesses, that is to be “martyrs” according to the etymology, to pray for their persecutors, and to proclaim their faith with strength. An old apologist has said with incomparable accuracy: “The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians.” Again, it is necessary to preach this faith with clarity, and to recall without weakness that there is no salvation outside Jesus Christ and His Church.