Displacement of religious communities reached record heights in 2013.
Persecution, violence and imprisonment resulting either from government-sanctioned action or sectarian violence impacted numerous religious traditions.
“All around the world, individuals were subjected to discrimination, violence and abuse, perpetrated and sanctioned violence for simply exercising their faith, identifying with a certain religion or choosing not to believe in a higher deity at all,” stated a new report issued by the U.S. Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.
Christians fled religious persecution in Central African Republic, Egypt, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Syria, to name only a few locations.
This has significantly impacted the Christian population in these nations. For example, around 160,000 lived in Homs, Syria, prior to the conflict, but now only 1,000 remain.
Muslims have faced similar acts of violence. They have fled Buddhist persecution in Burma and Sri Lanka, while Shia Muslims in Egypt and Saudi Arabia have faced persecution from Sunni Muslims. In Iran, Shia Muslim leaders harassed non-Shia religious traditions.
The persecution and displacement of other religious traditions was also highlighted, with a note that religious minorities were “disproportionately affected” around the world.
Government-sanctioned persecution played a significant role in displacement.
These actions included: “laws criminalizing religious activities and expression, prohibitions on conversion or proselytizing, blasphemy laws, and stringent registration requirements or discriminatory application of registration requirements for religious organizations.”
Despite the somber tone of the report, stories of courage and hope emerged.
For example, Muslims formed human chains around Christian churches in Pakistan and Egypt to protect them.
In the United Kingdom, Jewish groups helped Muslims safely worship in their mosques when anti-Muslim sentiment arose.
Not mentioned in the executive summary, but covered extensively by EthicsDaily.com, is the fact that Lebanese Christians have been providing shelter, aid, education and worship space for Syrian refugees.
The executive summary is available here, along with reports on specific nations.