CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 20 October 2018

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Bad year for religious freedom in Asia

 

ROME (UCAN): A new report released on October 17 in Rome by Aid to the Church in Need on the religious freedom of minority groups in Asia says that persecution of Christians has continued or worsened in many countries in Asia during the past 12 months.

The report singles out Pakistan as having had a terrible year following the killing of two top politicians, a Muslim, Salman Taseer, and a Catholic, Shahbaz Bhatti, both of whom had expressed strong opposition to the strict blasphemy laws in the Muslim majority country.

It adds that China experienced what it describes as “tremendous violations of religious freedom,” while Vietnam looks to be following its northern neighbour by promoting patriotic religious groups in opposition to the Church.

The Union of Myanmar is described as making little headway towards tolerance of minority religions, despite its recent political reforms, while in North Korea, religious freedom continues to be totally denied.

Meanwhile, the report adds that India witnessed a growing enforcement of anti-conversion laws, which coincided with a rise in attacks against minorities.

John Dayal, the secretary-general of the All India Christian Council, said in releasing the report in Rome that the recent rapid rise of extremist Hindu groups in opposition to what they perceive as an Islamic threat is the main factor behind worsening religious persecution during 2011.

“India is in a state of denial,” he said. “It refuses to acknowledge that there is such violence taking place.”

Dayal said that with the lowest group in India’s now-discredited caste system now 60 per cent Christian, the possibility that people traditionally referred to by the derogatory term of untouchables, could unite under Christianity and pose a threat to the politics of the upper castes.

He surmised that this has prompted authorities to slowly strip away their right to make their own choice of a religious faith.

Elsewhere, attacks by Muslims on Christians continued in the southern Philippines last year, while in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka intolerance among different religions was noted on numerous occasions.

Thailand is seen as one of the few bright spots on the horizon, as it is one of the first countries in Asia to make real progress in interreligious dialogue.

 

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