61% of the world’s population live in countries where religious freedom is not respected

ACN International presents its latest report on “Religious Freedom in the World” 2018

Madrid, 22 November 2018. 61% of the world’s population live in countries where religious freedom is not respected; in other words, 6 out of every 10 people around the world cannot express their faith with total freedom.

This is one of the key conclusions of the report on Religious Freedom in the World”, which was officially made public today in Rome by the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation ACN International, with simultaneous worldwide launches also taking place in many other locations such as London, Paris, Santiago, Manila and New York.

The report looks at all 196 countries of the world, examining the degree to which the basic right to religious freedom, as defined in Article 18 of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is respected with regard to all the world’s major religious faiths.

Grave violations of religious freedom were found to occur in a total of 38 countries. In 17 of these, serious discrimination on grounds of religious faith prevails, whereas in the remaining 21 countries, there is outright persecution of religious minorities, in some cases to the point of death.

As the Report reveals, in some of the most wanting countries from the point of view of religious freedom, the situation has only deteriorated over the past two years. And on the global level in general, overall respect for religious freedom has also worsened.

In reaction to this development Dr. Thomas Heine-Geldern, Executive President of ACN recalls that “Pope Francis, as well as his immediate predecessors, have all stressed that religious freedom is a fundamental human right rooted in the dignity of man” and therefore, “as a papal foundation, we see it as our duty to draw worldwide attention to this intrinsic link between religious freedom and human dignity through proper information.”


ACN Launch and Press Conference of the Religious Freedom Report 2018 in Rome
ACN Launch and Press Conference of the Religious Freedom Report 2018 in Rome


According to the report, in Africa’s Middle Belt, religious freedom is threatened by the advance of jihadist Islamism, , whereas in countries such as India there is real concern at the growth of Hindu “ultranationalism”, which has resulted in a marked decline in religious freedom in this country over the past two years.

As the study shows, in 22 countries the reason for the attacks on religious freedom are rooted in radical Islamism, while in other countries the dominant causes are rooted elsewhere, notably in the authoritarianism of States or governments which pursue policy of extreme nationalism.

Such authoritarian or extreme nationalist states number 16 in total, though at the same time they account for a very large population of over 3 billion people, since they include such countries as China, India, North Korea, Burma (Myanmar) Vietnam and Kyrgyzstan among others.

On a more positive note, the level of religious freedom appears to have improved both in Syria and Iraq. Following the military defeat of Isis/ Daesh, the religious minorities have begun to return to their former homes, most notably in the case of Christians from the towns and villages of the Niniveh Plains in Iraq.

On the basis of the information gathered in this report it is estimated that some 327 million Christians live in countries where they face religious persecution and 178 million in countries where there is discrimination on religious grounds. As a result, one in every five Christians around the world lives in a country where there is religious persecution or discrimination.

“Unfortunately, a perceptible improvement in religious freedom is still far off,” concludes Thomas Heine-Geldern. “Therefore, even this 14th report on religious freedom will not be the last one that our ACN Foundation will have to prepare in fulfilling its mission of information.”

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