Matters of Interest:
Religious Discrimination

The Hon. D.G.E. HOOD

3 June 2015

The Hon. D.G.E. HOOD (15:42:14): According to the secular International Society for Human Rights, 80 per cent of all acts of religious discrimination in the world are directed at and against Christians. With over two billion active Christians in the world, these numbers can be quite substantial. The Pew Research Centre estimates that over 75 per cent of the world's population lives in areas with severe religious restrictions.

According to the US Department of State, Christians in more than 60 countries face persecution from the governments or surrounding neighbours. It is been reported that this totals upwards of 300 million people. Of those people, it is estimated that 100,000 die every year, and that amounts to 11 people being killed every hour around the world simply for holding the Christian faith.

Despite the religious protections afforded in articles 18 and 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which could be argued to be customary international law, persecution frequently includes legalised discrimination, violence, torture, imprisonment, relocation, forced conversion and even death. In Saudi Arabia, bans on the practice of Christianity extend to the prevention of having churches, selling Christmas cards or engaging in public Christian worship, and precluding Christians from even becoming citizens of that nation.

The Copts of Egypt by law are banned from being president of the Islamic Republic of Egypt, holding any high political or commercial position and attending Al Azhar University. Copts must get permission from the president to build or repair churches, yet mosques face no such restrictions. In Malaysia, Christians are deliberately given less access to employment, housing and education as policy of state.

It has been reported that up to 10,000 Christians have been murdered in Indonesia over the last few years due to their faith alone. This also occurs in parts of the Philippines, although it is much less frequent in that country. Christians in Pakistan are precluded from testifying against Muslims in court; however, a Muslim can testify against a Christian, and Christian schools have been subjected to bomb and gun attacks, as has been widely reported in the media.

Christians in Nigeria have been subjected to kidnappings, torture and the burning of their houses and churches merely for the faith they hold. Thousands of Christians have been killed in the last few years in the ensuing violence in that nation.

In Iraq, the Islamic State began telling Christians that they must leave, pay a tax for religious minorities, or convert to Islam or they would be killed. Many Christians, but also other religious minorities, have been killed, whether by beheading or some other means, abducted or physically harmed in one way or another. In Mexico, a guerrilla group there displaced 15 families when they converted to Christianity. The families slept in a stable for over a year and were prevented from recovering their belongings from their village.

Persecution of Christians is not limited to Islamic countries, of course; it happens everywhere. In Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka, religious tension led to 44 churches being attacked in a four-month period, with 140 churches being forced to close because of intimidation. In India, the rise of Hindu nationalism has led to the persecution of Muslims and of Christians. The government's affirmative action program for untouchables, so-called, guarantees jobs and loans for poor Hindus and Buddhists, but the same luxury is not afforded to Christians.

China has a population of approximately 70 million Christians yet, despite this large number of people, the Chinese government closed more than 100 so-called house churches and imprisoned dozens of priests in recent times. In North Korea, those caught practising Christianity are sent indefinitely to political labour camps, and family members are frequently sentenced to re-education camps. Offending, insulting and attacking Christians has become very common-too common-around the world.

As I said previously, 11 Christians die every single hour around the world simply for having the Christian faith. Those almost silent atrocities faced in the world today are frequently overlooked and rarely reported. Sadly, few people realise the extent to which this persecution occurs. In Iran, I have personally known people who have had to flee their house leaving every single possession they had behind, just escaping that country, merely for the fact that they had converted to Christianity from Islam. This is all too common, and the world should not put up with it any longer.

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