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Religious freedom at risk in one of five countries: report

  • Uighur Muslims praying at a mosque in China's Xinjiang. Photo courtesy: AFP
  • The Sacré-Cœur Basilica in Montmartre district of Paris illuminated in red to raise awareness on religious freedom in the world. Photo courtesy: AFP
  • Cathédrale de la Sainte-Trinité de Paris Orthodoxe Russe illuminated in red to raise awarness on religious freedom in the world. Photo courtesy: AFP

Paris (AFP) -- Religious freedom is under threat in one of every five nations around the globe, in part because of an increase in "aggressive ultranationalism", a Catholic NGO said in a report.

Aid to the Church in Need found incidents of religious persecution in 21 countries in the two years to June 2018, including Niger, Myanmar, India and China.

Acts of discrimination were reported in 17 other countries such as Algeria, Turkey and Russia, it said.

It was the 14th edition of the aid group's report covering all religions in 196 countries, carried out every two years with the assistance of independent journalists.

"We've observed a trivialisation of attacks on religious freedom," said Marc Fromager, head of the NGO's French chapter, at a press conference in Paris.

Of the 38 countries where freedom is threatened, he said the situation has worsened in 18 of them, "in particular in two of the most populous countries in the world, China and India."

"This hostility toward minorities has worsened to the point that we can qualify this as aggressive ultranationalism," he said.

In China, for example, Fromager said churches have been destroyed and Uighur Muslims have been forbidden from observing the holy month of Ramadan, while Tibetan Buddhists continue to face persecution.

The report noted an easing of tensions in Syria and Iraq following the weakening of the Islamic State group, which has allowed some Christians to return to their homes.

And while persecution was not seen as a problem in Europe, Fromager noted "a worrying increase in extremist attacks motivated in particular by religious hatred."

The French government announced earlier this month that anti-Semitic acts surged by 69 percent to 385 in the first nine months of 2018.

Churches and monuments worldwide will be bathed in red light on some nights this month to mark the NGO's findings.

 

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