In 2023, religious freedom threatened in one in three countries

In 2023, religious freedom threatened in one in three countries

What is this report?

An international foundation of pontifical right, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) examines the situation of all religious denominations in 196 countries every two years. The 16th edition of its report covers the period from May 2021 to December 2022. About 30 scholars, missionaries, rights activists and journalists worked on this document.

62% of the world’s population lives in countries where religious freedom is violated

Religious freedom has been violated in 61 countries of the 196 studied, compared to 62 in the previous report. They bring together more than 4.9 billion people, or 62.5% of the population.

The document provides an alarming inventory since, since the last report, the situation has deteriorated in 47 countries. Only nine have seen their situation improve (Mauritius, Ethiopia, Jordan, Oman, Qatar, Egypt, United Arab Emirates…).

28 countries suffered persecution

Among these 61 countries, the EDA counted of the persecutions in 28 countries (assassinations, deportations, exiles, conversions and forced marriages, expropriations), i.e. 51.6% of the world’s population, compared to 26 in 2021. Many African countries but also China and India are among “the worst offenders of religious freedom”.

For the rest, 33 countries are affected by discrimination. 22 countries have been classified as “under observation”, for which new factors of concern are likely to cause a rupture.

African countries most concerned

According to the ACN report, of the 28 countries facing persecution, “13 are in Africa, where in many regions the situation has deteriorated sharply.” In addition, 39% of the countries of the continent have their religious freedom violated.

For the Catholic foundation, this concentration is explained by the presence of jihadist groups and the expansion of “opportunist caliphates” (DRC, Mozambique).

Armed groups – Islamist, military, paramilitary or criminal – perpetuate massacres, looting and kidnappings (Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Mali, Chad, Niger) while imposing taxes and illegal trade. Taking advantage of the failure of States, they act in countries sometimes in a situation of civil war on all or part of their territory (Somalia, Libya, Yemen, Cameroon, Sudan). While the entire civilian population suffers from extreme insecurity, Christians are particularly targeted by attacks.


Power in the hands of autocrats and leaders of fundamentalist groups

AED has identified three causes for this degraded situation:

Religious freedom is attacked either by “authoritarian governments”either by “Islamist extremism”, either by “ethno-religious nationalism”.

A combination terrorist attacks, destruction of heritage and religious symbols (Turkey, Syria), manipulation of the electoral system (Nigeria, Iraq), mass surveillance (China), proliferation of anti-conversion laws and financial restrictions ( Southeast Asia and the Middle East) has increased the oppression of all faith communities.


Muslims and Jews targeted

The NGO notes an “increased persecution of Muslims, including by other Muslims”, in particular “between Sunnis and Shiites”, noting in particular the situation of the Hazara community in Afghanistan.

It also notes that “reported attacks against the Jewish community in the West increased after the Covid-19-related confinements. Reported anti-Semitic hate crimes in OSCE countries increased from 582 in 2019 to 1,367 in 2021” . These figures come from the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

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