The period under review has seen the emergence of a new phenomenon of religiously motivated violence which can be described as Islamist hyper-extremism, a process of heightened radicalisation, unprecedented in its violent expression.
Over 75% of the world's population lives in areas with severe religious restrictions (Pew Research Center). Of the 196 countries reviewed in this report, 38 showed unmistakable evidence of significant religious freedom violations.
May 2016: Pope Francis and Ahmed el-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Cairo’s Al-Azhar Mosque met at the Vatican in what representatives of both faiths described as a historic encounter.
In seven other countries in this category, the problems were already so bad they could scarcely get any worse. Our analysis also shows that, of the 38 countries with significant religious freedom violations, 55 percent remained stable regarding religious freedom and in eight percent – namely Bhutan, Egypt and Qatar – the situation improved
a) Extremist creed and a radical system of law and government; b) Systematic attempts to annihilate or drive out all groups who do not conform to their outlook including co-religionists – moderates and those of different traditions; c) Cruel treatment of victims; d) Use of the latest social media, notably to recruit followers and to intimidate opponents by parading extreme violence; e) Global impact enabled by affiliate extremist groups and well resourced support networks. This new phenomenon has had a toxic impact regarding religious liberty around the world: a) Since mid-2014, violent Islamist attacks have taken place in one in ve countries around the world – from Sweden to Australia and including 17 African nations; b) In parts of the Middle East, including Syria and Iraq, this hyper-extremism is eliminating all forms of religious diversity and is threatening to do so in parts of Africa and the Asian Sub-Continent. The intention is to replace pluralism with a religious mono culture; c) Islamist extremism and hyper extremism, observed in countries including Afghanistan, Somalia and Syria, has been a key driver in the sudden explosion of refugees which, according to United Nations figures for the year 2015, went up by 5.8 million to a new high of 65.3 million; d) In Central Asia, hyper-extremist violence is being used by authoritarian regimes as a pretext for a disproportionate crackdown on religious minorities, curtailing civil liberties of all kinds including religious freedom; e) In the West, this hyper-extremism is at risk of destabilising the socio-religious fabric, with countries sporadically targeted by fanatics and under pressure to receive unprecedented numbers of refugees mostly of a different faith to the indigenous communities. Manifest ripple effects include the rise of right-wing and populist groups; restrictions on free movement, discrimination and violence against minority faiths and a decline of social cohesion, including in state schools.
Founded in 1947 as a Catholic aid organization for war refugees and recognized as a papal foundation since 2011, ACN is dedicated to the service of Christians around the world, through information, prayer and action, wherever they are persecuted or oppressed or suffering material need. ACN supports every year an average of 6000 projects in close to 150 countries, thanks to private donations, as the foundation receives no public funding.