Hyper-extremism in groups like the Islamic State is eroding religious diversity around the world as the groups attempt to impose their will on those with differing beliefs, creating an explosion in the number of refugees worldwide as people attempt to escape intolerance, Aid to the Church in Need warned Tuesday in its biennial report.
In the Religious Freedom in the World report, the international Vatican-sponsored charity said the growth of the refugee community, now numbering an estimated 65.3 million, threatens the “socio-religious” fabric of the countries that have taken in those displaced, prompting the growth of right-wing populist groups along with discrimination and violence against religious minorities.
ISIS has flaunted its brutality, often using videos of beheadings as a terror and recruiting tool. The report, which defines hyper-extremism as a process of heightened radicalization, noted violent attacks have occurred in 20 percent of countries spanning the globe.
A similar U.S. State Department report issued earlier found the legal code in many countries imposes harsh penalties for blasphemy and apostasy, undermining human rights and inciting mob violence against the accused, many of them victimized by false charges. It accused ISIS and Boko Haram of genocide.
Tuesday’s report found religious freedom has deteriorated in 11 of the 23 worst-offending countries, with no change noted in 38 others. Only in three countries — Bhutan, Egypt and Qatar — did the climate improve. Among the worst-offending countries were Syria, Iraq, North Korea and China, the report said.
“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 report said. “The intention is to replace pluralism with a religious mono-culture.”
The report said extremist groups target all those who disagree with their fundamentalist beliefs, including moderate Muslims, with the internet and social media playing a key role in radicalizing youths and intolerance.
“[There is a] rise of intolerance towards almost every group, not just Muslims and Jews,” Marie-Claude Lalonde, national director of Aid to the Church in Need Canada, told the Catholic Register. “Christians feel discomfort. They could also become the target.
“We have to be careful to see what’s going on and watch the trend.”
The report noted in Canada, not only has there been an increase in the number of anti-Muslim incidents but in anti-Jewish incidents as well. More than a dozen violent attacks on Muslims, including vandalism at mosques, were reported. B’nai B’rith Canada reported 19 cases of anti-Jewish attacks, a 28 percent increase over the previous year.
Unlike years past in which governments instigated or turned a blind eye to religious persecution, mostly fundamentalists and militants are responsible for the current wave in more than half the worst-offending countries.