Thu. Nov 21st, 2019

Fulfilling the Promises

"And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory." Mark 13:26

Bishop of Truro’s Independent Review for the Foreign Secretary of FCO Support for Persecuted Christians

Interim Report


Introduction

On Boxing Day 2018 The Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, HM Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, announced that he had asked me to set up an Independent Review into the global persecution of Christians; to map the extent and nature of the phenomenon; to assess the quality of the response of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), and to make recommendations for changes in both policy and practice.

Initially, the aim was to conclude the Review by Easter 2019. However it rapidly became apparent that the scale and nature of the phenomenon simply required more time. Thus it was agreed that an Interim Report focusing on the scale and nature of the problem would be produced by the end of April 2019, with a final report to be delivered by the end of June. This present work is that Interim Report.

After an ‘Overview’ section, which paints a grim global picture, the Report then drills down into analysis of a number of different regions. Detailed analysis of the crisis Christians are facing in particular ‘Focus Countries’ will be added incrementally to the Independent Review’s Website over the next two months with case studies that will be used to review the FCO response. It concludes by drawing some general conclusions that will inform the second phase. It is on the basis of these conclusions and our engagement with all levels of the FCO that the Independent Review will then make its recommendations for policy and practice.

The independence and thus the credibility of the Review has always been of paramount importance to me. Therefore the make-up of the team working on this project has been a careful balance of FCO staff, secondees from key NGOs and independent members. I want to record my personal thanks to (amongst others) Tom Woodroffe, Julian Mansfield, Margaret Galy and Jaye Ho from the FCO. I am grateful too for expert input from Open Doors, Aid to the Church in Need, Release International and Christian Solidarity Worldwide. Finally, my grateful thanks go to independent members, David Fieldsend, Charles Hoare and Rachael Varney to whose hard work and dedication I am indebted.

Even while this Interim Report was in its final stages the news was coming in of the Easter bombings in Sri Lanka that reaped a horrific death toll in attacks in which Christians were a prime target. The sad fact is that this report will be out of date even by the time that it is published. And such is the sheer scale of the problem that whilst we have ranged widely in our analysis we make no claim to be wholly comprehensive. Originally we planned to focus on four regions however NGO colleagues then suggested two more. But the picture remains incomplete. In particular we have not analysed the situation in Europe and Eurasia. But our not doing so should not be taken to imply there is no issue to be addressed in this region. Far from it.

The Independent Review was announced at Christmas and this Interim Report is published in the Easter season. Both of these great festivals remind us that weakness and vulnerability are at the heart of the Christian faith. Jesus Christ was born into poverty and laid in a feeding-trough. He died as a victim of persecution himself. Given that, it is hardly surprising that many of his followers today count among the weakest and most vulnerable people on the planet. It is to them, to their needs and to their support, that this Interim Report is dedicated.

Rt. Rev. Philip Mounstephen
Bishop of Truro
Easter 2019


Overview

The Scale of Religious Persecution:

Persecution on grounds of religious faith is a global phenomenon that is growing in scale and intensity. Reports including that of the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on ‘Freedom of Religion and Belief’ (FoRB) suggest that religious persecution is on the rise,1 and it is an “ever-growing threat” to societies around the world.2 Though it is impossible to know the exact numbers of people persecuted for their faith, based on reports from different NGOs,3 it is estimated that one third of the world’s population suffers from religious persecution in some form, with Christians being the most persecuted group.

This despite the fact that freedom of religion and belief is a fundamental right of every person. This includes the freedom to change or reject one’s own belief system. The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in Article 18 defines religious human rights in this way:

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance. (The Universal Declaration of Human Rights)4

Despite the fact that the UDHR is foundational to the UN Charter which is binding on member states, and that ‘the denial of religious liberty is almost everywhere viewed as morally and legally invalid’, in today’s world religious freedom is far from being an existential reality.5

The Review Terms of Reference called for ‘persecution and other discriminatory treatment’ to be researched. In the absence of an agreed academic definition of ‘persecution’ the Review has proceeded on the understanding that persecution is discriminatory treatment where that treatment is accompanied by actual or perceived threats of violence or other forced coercion.

Why a focus on Christian persecution?

The final Report will include a fuller, principled, justification for the work of the Review. Significantly, it will argue that a focus on Christian persecution must not be to the detriment of other minorities, but rather helps and supports them. However, research consistently indicates that Christians are “the most widely targeted religious community”6. Furthermore, the evidence suggests that acts of violence and other intimidation against Christians are becoming more widespread.7 The reporting period revealed an increase in the severity of anti-Christian persecution. In parts of the Middle East and Africa, the “vast scale”8 of the violence and its perpetrators’ declared intent to eradicate the Christian community has led to several Parliamentary declarations9 in recent years that the faith group has suffered genocides according to the definition adopted by the UN.10

Against this backdrop, academics, journalists and religious leaders (both Christian and non-Christian) have stated that, as Cambridge University Press puts it, the global persecution of Christians is “an urgent human rights issue that remains underreported”.11 An op-ed piece in the Washington Post stated: “Persecution of Christians continues… but it rarely gets much attention in the Western media. Even many churchmen in the West turn a blind eye.”12 Journalist John L Allen wrote in The Spectator: “[The] global war on Christians remains the greatest story never told of the early 21st century.”13 While government leaders, such as UK Prime Minister Theresa May14 and German Chancellor Angela Merkel,15 have publicly acknowledged the scale of persecution, concerns have centred on whether their public pronouncements and policies have given insufficient weight to the topic. Baroness Warsi told BBC Radio 4 that politicians should set “legal parameters as to what will and will not be tolerated. There is much more we can do.”16  Former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey said western governments have been “strangely and inexplicably reluctant to confront”17 persecution of Christians in the Middle East. UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he was “not convinced”18 that Britain’s response to Christian persecution was adequate.

There is widespread evidence showing that “today, Christians constitute by far the most widely persecuted religion.”19 Finding once again that Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world, the Pew Research Center concluded that in 2016 Christians were targeted in 144 countries20 – a rise from 125 in 2015.21 According to Pew Research, “Christians have been harassed in more countries than any other religious group and have suffered harassment in many of the heavily Muslim countries of the Middle East and North Africa.”22 Reporting “a shocking increase in the persecution of Christians globally”, Christian persecution NGO Open Doors (OD) revealed in its 2019 World Watch List Report on anti-Christian oppression that “approximately 245 million Christians living in the top 50 countries suffer high levels of persecution or worse”23, 30 million up on the previous year.24 Open Doors stated that within five years the number of countries classified as having “extreme” persecution had risen from one (North Korea) to 11.25 Both OD and Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) have highlighted the increasing threat from “aggressive nationalism”26 or “ultra-nationalism”27 in countries such as China and India – growing world powers – as well as from Islamist militia groups. According to Persecution Relief, 736 attacks were recorded in India in 2017, up from 348 in 2016.28 With reports in China showing an upsurge of persecution against Christians, between 2014 and 2016, government authorities in Zheijiang Province targeted up to 2,000 churches, which were either partially or completely destroyed or had their crosses removed.29

Evidence shows not only the geographic spread of anti-Christian persecution, but also its increasing severity. In some regions, the level and nature of persecution is arguably coming close to meeting the international definition of genocide, according to that adopted by the UN.30 The eradication of Christians and other minorities on pain of “the sword”31 or other violent means was revealed to be the specific and stated objective of extremist groups in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, north-east Nigeria and the Philippines. An intent to erase all evidence of the Christian presence was made plain by the removal of crosses, the destruction of Church buildings and other Church symbols.32 The killing and abduction of clergy represented a direct attack on the Church’s structure and leadership. Where these and other incidents meet the tests of genocide, governments will be required to bring perpetrators to justice, aid victims and take preventative measures for the future.

The main impact of such genocidal acts against Christians is exodus. Christianity now faces the possibility of being wiped-out in parts of the Middle East where its roots go back furthest. In Palestine, Christian numbers are below 1.5 percent33; in Syria the Christian population has declined from 1.7 million in 2011 to below 450,00034 and in Iraq, Christian numbers have slumped from 1.5 million before 2003 to below 120,000 today.35 Christianity is at risk of disappearing, representing a massive setback for plurality in the region.

In its 2017 ‘Persecuted and Forgotten?’ report on Christian persecutionACN stated: “In terms of the number of people involved, the gravity of the crimes committed and their impact, it is clear that the persecution of Christians is today worse than at any time in history.”36 Given the scale of persecution, the response of the media and western Governments has come under increasing criticism. Former Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks told the House of Lords: “The persecution of Christians throughout much of the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, [and] elsewhere is one of the crimes against humanity of our time and I’m appalled at the lack of protest it has evoked”.37 This echoes the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal: “‘Does anybody here hear our cry? How many atrocities must we endure before someone comes to our aid?”38

Given the scale of persecution of Christians today, indications that it is getting worse and that its impact involves the decimation of some of the faith group’s oldest and most enduring communities, the need for governments to give increasing priority and specific targeted support to this faith community is not only necessary but increasingly urgent.

Types of Persecution

The persecution of and discriminatory behaviour towards Christians varies greatly in severity and intensity from place to place across every continent. It can be more or less intrusive into everyday life and its perpetrators can have varying degrees of legitimacy in local communities and national society. Oppression may come from official representatives of the state and even be enshrined in law at one end of the scale, or alternatively be the result of agitation by certain more or less informal elements within society. It can be perpetrated by close family and friends, particularly when a subject changes their religious allegiance away from that of their family, friends and neighbours. On another scale, those dissenting from the majority religion or ideology of a society can find that activities that take place in the privacy of their own home can be subject to interference and arbitrary arrest or strong social opprobrium whilst what goes on within their place of worship is largely not interfered with. Failure to belong to the majority religion or ideology of a society, especially when religious allegiance is recorded on identity papers, can also result in a limitation of access to employment and educational opportunities. The human right to freedom of religion and belief can only be said to be fully enjoyed when observance can freely take place in public and in private and when belonging to any particular religion or changing your religion or belief does not affect your life chances and opportunity for economic and social advancement in society.

Violent persecution exists in many forms. Firstly there is mass violence which regularly expresses itself through the bombing of churches, as has been the case in countries such as Egypt39, Pakistan40 and Indonesia41, whereby the perpetrators raise levels of fear amongst the Christian community and attempt to suppress the community’s appetite to practice its right to public expression of freedom of religion and belief. State militaries attacking minority communities which practice a different faith to the country’s majority also constitutes a violent threat to Christian communities such as the Kachin42 and Chin43 people of Myanmar and the Christians of the Nuba mountains of Sudan.44 The torture of Christians is widespread in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)45and Eritrean46 prisons, and beatings in police custody are widely reported in India.47

Extrajudicial killings and the enforced and involuntary disappearance of Christians are also widespread. These violent manifestations of persecution can be perpetrated by the state48 as has been reported by international jurists in the case of the murders taking place within DPRK prisons49 and as was allegedly seen in the kidnapping of Pastor Raymond Koh in Malaysia.50 These acts are also perpetrated by non-state actors such as Muslim extremists who systematically target and kidnap Christian girls in Pakistan51 and in the recent murder of Pastor Leider Molina in Colombia by a guerrilla/paramilitary group.52

‘Militant vigilante groups’ which ‘patrol their neighbourhoods’ looking for those who do not conform to society’s religious norms also pose a violent threat53 to Christians in India. Mob violence has become a regular occurrence in the states of Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Telangana54 leading to beatings, forced conversion from Christianity to Hinduism, sexual violence against women and murder.55

Social persecution is often structural in nature and harder to detect, but is the type of persecution which the majority of persecuted Christians are experiencing because it is so far reaching in every area of life.56 For instance, the private lives of Christians are closely regulated in the DPRK57 with widespread state propaganda attempting to regulate the thought lives of its citizens.58 In countries such as Saudi Arabia59 and the Maldives60 citizens are not entitled to hold Christian meetings even in the privacy of their own homes. In countries such as Uzbekistan61, Turkmenistan62, Tajikistan63 and Kazakhstan64 the churches are tightly regulated with the freedom of religion and belief severely inhibited as churches are regularly raided. In both China65 and Tajikistan66 reports of churches being forced to turn minors away from services continues to undermine the right67 of parents to pass on their religion to their children.68

The suppression of public expressions of Christianity is further curbed through discriminatory behaviour and harassment by bureaucratic means.69 This includes the denial of permits and licenses which are required by law for a church to be built in countries such as Egypt.70 Beyond churches themselves, in the ‘community sphere’, government officials treating Christians with ‘contempt, hostility or suspicion’,71 on the basis of their faith, is experienced regularly with, for example, the denial of burial rights in Nepal72, the use of textbooks with contempt for non-Muslims in schools in Pakistan73, and the displacement of Christian leaders in Latin America.74 In the most extreme cases community rulings force Christians to leave their village. This type of ruling by indigenous communities in India75 and Latin America76 is regularly reported.

Finally, the situation within the ‘national sphere’ highlights the way in which Christians experience laws which are detrimental to their international right to freedom of religion or belief. According to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, 71 of the world’s countries have blasphemy legislation in place.77 The high profile case of the Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi highlighted that these laws are often unjustly used with accusers often lacking credible evidence.78 In other instances blasphemy legislation is used opportunistically so as to imprison Christians, as was seen in the imprisonment of the Christian Governor of Jakarta, Basuki Cahaya Purnama.79 Furthermore, unjust trials are commonplace, as has been seen in the case of Iranian Priest Ebrahim Firouzi who was originally arrested in March 2013 on allegations of ‘promoting Christian Zionism’ and has since 2015 been serving a further five year prison sentence on charges of acting against national security.80

In the ‘national sphere’, religious extremists/nationalists have carefully crafted an influential political narrative that states that Christianity is an alien or foreign religion in a number of countries.81 For example, there is a growing narrative in India that to be Indian is to be Hindu.82 Such toxic narratives, widespread amongst political elites, have led to mob violence in India83, the systematic attack of Christian minorities in Myanmar84 85and the interference with theological expression in China.86 The suppression of Christian practices under the guise of ‘anti-extremism’ legislation is also a regular tactic used to suppress church life in countries such as Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.87

Intersectionality and Freedom of Religion and Belief

In the Western mind-set FoRB is often perceived to be in opposition to other rights, notably rights around sexual identity. However there is significant evidence that a concern for FoRB actually intersects with other rights and issues that are of major concern to Western governments. Thus there is a clear intersection between poverty and social exclusion and FoRB: in Pakistan, the Christian minority is reported to be 1.6% – 2.5% of the population (2,600,000 people)88. Most live in extreme poverty, their forebears having converted from the Dalit caste before Partition.

As for poverty so for trade and security: put simply, states where FoRB is respected are more likely to be stable, and thus more reliable trading partners, and less likely to pose a security risk.

There is a particular intersection between FoRB and gender equality89. Again, put simply, in global terms if you are a Christian woman you are more likely to be a victim of discrimination and persecution than if you are a man. In the last 10 years anecdotal evidence has begun to emerge from persecuted Christians that women were suffering violent attacks, targeted abuses and restrictions because they faced what became known as double marginalisation. They were marginalised and abused because of being both a woman and Christian. Reporting on Christian women can be minimalised by the fact that they are often invisible to society and poorly represented by stakeholders and civil society. In more recent years through significant collaboration and a ground swell of interest this has changed.

In 2018 and 2019 analysis from the Open Doors World Watch list included gender profiles confirming that persecution was indeed gender specific. It correlates well with the previous reports and has validated numerous case studies that organisations such as Release International, Open Doors and Christian Solidarity Worldwide have presented in the last five years.

Thus there is strong anecdotal evidence of Christian girls being groomed and trafficked into sham marriages, often with the aim of bringing shame and dishonour on the family, in various contexts in the Middle East and from North Korea to China. In 2015 a trauma counsellor in Egypt reported that as many as 40-50% of Christians living in poverty had been victims of sexual abuse from a relative or a near neighbour who was living in close quarters. This environment perpetuates the desire for escape out of poverty and abuse, making such women particularly vulnerable to grooming.

As well as being a simple matter of justice this intersectionality of women’s rights and FoRB illustrates that Western governments, by paying attention to the latter, which has not been a traditional concern, can do much to address the former, which certainly has been a matter of significant concern to them.

Region by Region Analysis

Regional Focus: Middle East & North Africa (MENA)

The persecution of Christians is perhaps at its most virulent in the region of the birthplace of Christianity – the Middle East & North Africa (MENA for short). As mentioned earlier, forms of persecution ranging from routine discrimination in education, employment and social life up to genocidal attacks against Christian communities have led to a significant exodus of Christian believers from this region since the turn of the century.

During the past two decades religious freedom in the MENA has taken a turn for the worse.90 Sectarianism is the main source of most conflicts and remains a powerful political, social and cultural force throughout the MENA. As a result, the MENA ethnic and religious minority groups, especially Christians, face a high level of persecution by the state, by religious extremist armed groups and, in many places, by societies and communities.91 In countries such as Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Saudi Arabia the situation of Christians and other minorities has reached an alarming stage.92 In Saudi Arabia there are strict limitations on all forms of expression of Christianity including public acts of worship. There have been regular crackdowns on private Christian services93. The Arab-Israeli conflict has caused the majority of Palestinian Christians to leave their homeland. The population of Palestinian Christians has dropped from 15% to 2%.94 The 2011 uprisings and the fall of old dictatorships gave ground to religious extremism that has increased greatly the pressures upon and persecutions of Christians in Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Libya.

A century ago Christians comprised 20 percent of the MENA population. Today, they are less than 4 percent,95 an estimate of 15 million.96 Three critical factors have contributed to the drastic decline and exodus of Christians from the Middle East:

  1. The political failures in the Middle East have created a fertile ground for religious extremists and other actors to exploit religion, and to intensify religious and sectarian divisions in MENA. The rise of religious extremism, civil wars and general violence in various countries, especially since early 2000, has caused a huge migration of Christians (and non-Christians) from the Middle East.97 It has also impacted Muslim-Christian relationships, and compromised significantly the safety of Christians and other religious minority groups in the region.98
  2. MENA states such as Turkey and Algeria have become more religiously conservative. Although in many MENA countries religious minorities have been protected under Shari’a law, in reality, states do not provide equal rights and opportunities for Christians or other religious minority groups. Fighting for basic equality and rights in the market place and higher education are common challenges for many Christians in the region.
  3. Persecution and discrimination against Christians is not a new phenomenon in the Middle East, but it is the most important factor for the recent drastic decline of Christians from the MENA region. The rise of radical ideologies has increased religious intolerance against Christians. This can be seen throughout the MENA region.99 In countries such as Egypt and Algeria, ‘extremist groups exploit institutional weaknesses in the justice, rule of law and police system to threaten Christians.’100 The rise of hate speech against Christians in state media and by religious leaders, especially in countries like Iran101 and Saudi Arabia102, has compromised the safety of Christians and created social intolerance.

In 2016 various political bodies including the UK parliament, the European Parliament and the US House of Representatives, declared that ISIS atrocities against Christians and other religious minority groups such as Yazidis and Shi’a Muslims met the tests of genocide.103 Archbishop Athanasius Toma Dawod of the Syrian Orthodox Church called it “genocide – ethnic cleansing.”104 Whilst Release International had been informed that the numbers Christians who were killed for their faith by ISIS was not high although very large numbers were dispossessed and forced to flee, ACN argued that ‘in targeting Christians, Yazidis and Mandaeans and other minorities, Daesh (ISIS) and other fundamentalist groups are in breach of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide’.105

The recent defeat of the ‘Islamic State’, has strengthened the influence of other Islamist groups who continue to persecute Christians. Furthermore dramatic political changes continue to severely impact the situation of many religious minority groups, including Christians, in the region.106

MENA Trends and themes

Cases of persecution and discrimination against Christians are complex with mixed motives and multiple actors involved and vary depending on the degree of freedom of religion and belief in different countries in the region. In some cases the state, extremist groups, families and communities participate collectively in persecution and discriminatory behaviour. In countries such as Iran, Algeria and Qatar, the state is the main actor, where as in Syria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Libya and Egypt both state and non-state actors, especially religious extremist groups, are implicated. Christians with a Muslim background are most vulnerable and face tougher persecution from all actors and especially from their families and communities.107

As evidenced below, the most common forms of persecution, in recent years (2015 – 2018) have been martyrdom, violent threats, general harassment, legal discrimination, incitement to hatred through media and from the pulpit, detention and imprisonment.

Based on the Middle East Concern (MEC) 2018 annual report, in 2017 a total of 99 Egyptian Christians were killed by extremist groups, with 47 killed on Palm Sunday in Tanta and Alexandria. Egyptian Christians were continuously targeted by extremist groups during 2017 and 2018.

Arrest, detention and imprisonment are common in Iran, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. For example in the course of six days before Christmas 2018, 114 Christians were arrested in Iran with court cases left pending as a form of intimidation.108 Though most cases in Iran involve converts, indigenous Christians such as Pastor Victor, an Assyrian Christian, with his wife Shamiran Issavi and their son, have also been targeted and imprisoned.109

Legal obstacles that restrict the building and maintenance of places of worship are another trend in persecution and discrimination e.g. in Egypt, Algeria and Turkey. Several states such as Turkey and Algeria, have increased their interference in church institutions and leaders. Sectarian attacks against churches and church properties have also increased in Turkey and Egypt. As regards the latter, ‘sectarian tension, sometimes escalating to violent attack, [was] based on claims that Christians were using unauthorised properties as places of worship.’110 Many of these properties had in fact been used for Christian worship for years, with permit applications pending for substantial periods without response.

Confiscation of church properties, attack on churches and properties owned by Christians in Syria, Iran,111 Egypt and Algeria have been reported.112Community-based sectarian attacks on church properties have increased in Egypt, Turkey and Israel, including vandalism of churches.113 Similar attitudes are demonstrated in the northern area of Cyprus currently under Turkish occupation. Access for worship to the historic Orthodox and Maronite churches in the area is severely restricted (only once a year if specific permission is granted in many cases) and even in the small number of churches where regular Sunday services are permitted intrusive police surveillance114 is complained of and services may occasionally be closed down by force and the congregation evicted without notice. Other churches are able to worship weekly but also complain of intrusive police surveillance.  Many historic churches and associated cemeteries in the area have also been allowed to fall into disrepair, be vandalised or converted to other uses115.

Incitement to hatred and hate propaganda against Christians in some states, and by state sponsored media and social media, especially in Iran, Iraq and Turkey, have escalated. The governing AK Party in Turkey depicts Christians as a “threat to the stability of the nation.116” Turkish Christian citizens have often been stereotyped as “not real Turks” but as Western collaborators. Turkey’s Association of Protestant Churches in their 2018 annual Rights Violation Report claimed that anti-Christian hate speech had increased in the Turkish media including private media.117” During the Christmas 2017 and New Year 2018 season various anti-Christmas campaigns were carried out; the Diyarbakir protestant church was stoned, and antagonistic posters were hung on the streets. “The participation in these campaigns by various public institutions created an intense atmosphere of hate.”118

Similarly, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) issued a study of Saudi school textbooks in March 2018. The findings confirmed that they teach pupils religious hatred and intolerance towards non-Muslims “including references to anti-Christians and anti-Jewish bigotry.”119 Throughout 2017, according to MEC, threats to Christians in Iraq, in areas dominated by Shi’a militia increased. Christians coming from a Muslim background have been the most vulnerable in almost all states in the MENA region. Their perpetrators have mainly been extremist groups and their own family and community members, except in Iran in which the state is the main persecutor of Christians.

Due to lack of trust in the security system, and the extended damage to their homes, only a modest number of Christian refugees have returned to their homelands in Iraq and Syria. Since the impact on Christians of the ongoing crisis in Syria has remained disproportionately high, Christian communities are heavily concentrated in government-controlled areas or in the North East.

Discrimination in employment and higher education, especially for Christian converts, is very common, and most of such discrimination goes unreported and unchallenged. Though Christians in Jordan to some extent enjoy freedom, most of the persecution has targeted Christians from a Muslim background.

In Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and UAE Christians are relatively free to worship as long as they obey the state’s restrictions and do not evangelise Muslims. Qatar allows foreign churches, but restricts the importation of Bibles.120

MENA – Conclusion

Religious persecution and discrimination, political failures, the rise of Muslim extremists, and the lack of legally protected freedom of religion and belief have all contributed in shaping the status of Christians in the MENA region. Based on Pew Research findings, Christians remain the most persecuted and vulnerable of religious groups in the Middle East (and around the world).121 Though the decline of Christians from the Middle East started in the early 20thcentury, during the past decade, on the evidence cited above, millions of Christians have been uprooted from their homes, and many have been killed, kidnapped, imprisoned and discriminated against.

Despite the disheartening nature of the situation, the steadfast presence of Christians in the region is a sign of hope and opportunity to advocate for religious protection, to advance pluralism and religious tolerance across the region as well as preserving Christian heritage, fostering positive relationships between Muslim and Christian communities, and encouraging peace and reconciliation.

Regional Focus: South Asia

To the east of the MENA region lie countries with a diversity of majority religions. In nearly all of these there is routine discrimination against Christians which has crossed over into outright persecution in recent years.

The growth of militant nationalism has been the key driver of Christian persecution in the south Asia region. In a number of cases – although by no means all – nationalistic ambitions have been yoked to a specific religion to which Christianity is perceived as being threatening or antagonistic. According to one analysis, ‘A number of political parties in the region have outwardly embraced militant religious causes to increase their populist electoral base, exploiting the issue of religion at the expense of their opponents. This is the case in India (with the Bharatiya Janata Party), Pakistan, and Bangladesh.’122 One might also add Sri Lanka’s Jathika Hela Urumaya, a Sinhalese nationalist party, in which Buddhist monks have been active from its formation. In countries such as Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka extremist forms of Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism have increasingly flexed their muscles.123 Ahmed Shaheed, the UN’s special rapporteur for religious freedom, identified an increase in religious fundamentalism as leading to religious liberty being “routinely violated across much of Asia.”124

Christians were already marginalised socially especially where ‘employment opportunities, welfare assistance, social networking were shaped by ethno-religious ties’.125 However, the rise of militant nationalism has been accompanied by a substantial rise in the number of attacks. Without reducing and homogenizing the drivers of these incidents, it is fair to say that the nationalistic, mono-religious impulses mentioned above are often a significant factor in such incidents. In 2017, Sri Lanka saw a rise in attacks on both Christians and Muslims, with 97 documented incidents, despite violent incidents against Christians having fallen after a previous peak. These included ‘attacks on churches, intimidation and violence against pastors and their congregations, and obstruction of worship services’.126 In India, persecution has risen sharply since the rise to power of the right-wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014.127 Figures suggest that there were 736 attacks against Christians in 2017, compared with 358 in 2016.128

It is worth noting at this point that in South Asia, as elsewhere, Christianity often acts as a bellwether for the state of freedom of religion and belief more generally, and the problems affecting Christians will almost invariably reflect the sorts of issues facing other minority religious groups. While data is available marking the rising number of attacks on Christians in India, unfortunately no comparable figures exist for attacks on the country’s other groups. However, there is evidence indicating that attacks on other minority religions, including the country’s Muslim community, also rose during the same period.129 This further reinforces the point that Christian persecution provides a bellwether for the general state of religious liberty and the toleration of minority religious groups in the region.

Allied to rising attacks are reports of Christians being denied redress under the law, regardless of their constitutional, statutory or other legal rights. There have been reports of police failing to respond to incidents in countries across the region. The Rt Rev’d Anthony Chirayath, Syro-Malabar Bishop of Sagar, central India, described Hindutva extremists beating up eight of his priests and burning their vehicle in Satna, Madhya Pradesh. No action was taken by the authorities, despite the incident happening outside a police station.130 In Pakistan, police refused to start an investigation after Arif Masih and his sister, Jameela, were seized by seven men with guns and rods who burst into the family home near Kasur in September 2016. After beating members of the Christian family, the intruders dragged 17-year-old Jameela and 20-year-old Arif into a van parked outside the home. After Arif finally escaped from the large house the siblings were taken to, he described hearing his sister screaming and reported being told that men were taking turns to rape her, but that this would stop if he converted to Islam.131 The kidnapping of girls from Christian and indeed other religious minority backgrounds is a significant problem in both Pakistan and India,132 one that reports suggest is exacerbated by the authorities’ reluctance to take action in both countries.

Restrictive legislation can cause problems for Christians and other minority groups. In November 2018 the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) called on the U.S. government to press governments in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka to rescind anti-conversion laws, ‘that limit the ability of religious groups to proselytize and the freedom of individuals to convert to a different religion’. 133 In a report issued at the same time the commission stated:

Often the motivation behind these laws, though not officially stated as such, is to protect the dominant religious tradition from a perceived threat from minority religious groups. The methods of preventing conversion vary: in India, several state legislatures have adopted laws limiting conversions away from Hinduism; in Pakistan, national blasphemy laws are used to criminalize attempts by non-Muslims to convert Muslims; and in India, Pakistan, and Nepal, governments are tightening their control over non-governmental organizations (NGOs), especially foreign missionary groups.134

While one should not ignore genuine concerns that such groups may be using aggressive and manipulative forms of proselytism most mainstream Christian groups strongly eschew such methods.135 However, claims of this sort of behaviour feed into narratives of Christianity as intrinsically antagonistic to the majority faith group. In India BJP MP Bharat Singh described Christian missionaries as ‘a threat to the unity of the country’.136 In Nepal, where evangelisation is prohibited by constitution, six Christians in the eastern Tehrathrum district were placed under police custody on charges of evangelising in May 2018. Two of them were arrested while singing worship songs in public and four others were taken from their home by police.137

While a number of countries in the region have blasphemy laws, in many countries such as Sri Lanka, India and Indonesia, these are framed in general terms and, at least in theory, offer equal protection to all religious groups.138 However, the USCIRF notes that Pakistan’s laws in this area are notable for their ‘severity of penalty’.139 Under articles 295 B, 295 C, 298 A, 298 B, 298 C of the Pakistan Penal Code profaning the Qur’an and insulting Muhammad are both punishable offences, respectively carrying maximum sentences of life imprisonment and death.140 The reach of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws affects all non-mainstream-Muslim minority groups, including Ahmadi Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and humanists.141 The most notorious case was that of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who spent ten years in jail after being sentenced to death for blasphemy. Despite being released from prison in late 2018, she was at the time of writing still reportedly living in hiding, fearing that vigilante mobs would carry out the original court sentence. Mobs often take the law in their own hands following blasphemy accusations. A number of those accused of blasphemy have been killed before the case reaches the courts.

South Asia: Conclusion:

The growth of militant nationalism has been the key driver of Christian persecution in South Asia. The table below encapsulates the range of measures used to limit minority rights in the region.

Summary of Majoritarian Limits Used to Prevent Religious Conversion in South Asia
(USCIRF data from Limitations on Minorities’ Religious Freedom in South Asia, p.2)
Country Bangladesh India Nepal Pakistan Sri Lanka
Majority Religious Group Muslim
(86%)
Hindu
(80%)
Hindu
(80%)
Muslim
(96.5%)
Buddhist
(70%)
Impacted Minority Religious Groups Christian, Hindu
(12.5%)
Christian, Muslim
(16.5%)
Christian, Muslim
(6%)
Christian, Hindu
(3.5%)
Muslim, Christian
(17.3%)
Existence of Anti-Conversion Laws N Y Y N Law Proposed, invalidated in 2004
Existence of Blasphemy Laws N Y Y Y Y
International NGO Registration Limitations Y Y New Law Proposed in 2018 Y N

In a new development for Sri Lanka the specific targeting of Catholic and Protestant  Christians appears to be the motivation for the horrific 2019 Easter bombings, as part of the wider ISIS inspired Jihadist movement with the perpetrators stating their allegiance in a pre-recorded video message to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi142. This attack combined the targeting of Sri Lanka’s Christian minority with western tourists and visiting members of the Sri Lankan diaspora (some of whom were eating breakfast, having recently returned from Easter vigils at local churches) as the prime focus of the attacks.

Regional Focus: Sub-Saharan Africa

To the south of the MENA region lies sub-Saharan Africa. It is, overwhelmingly, a majority Christian region. However, a string of countries on the southern edge of the Sahara desert, roughly from Dakar to Djibouti have formed a fault line where Muslim-majority culture and Christian-majority culture abut and overlap. Inter-communal tensions that have been limited in the past have come under severe pressure from extremist groups triggering violent attacks and discriminatory actions.

Some of the most egregious persecution of Christians has taken place in Sub-Saharan Africa, where reports showed a surge in attacks during the period under review.143 Evidence from across the region points to the systematic violation of the rights of Christians both by state and non-state actors. While the 2014-19 period saw renewed government crackdowns on Christians in some countries, notably Eritrea, the most widespread and violent threat came from societal groups, including many with a militant Islamist agenda.144 The most serious threat to Christian communities came from the militant Islamist group Boko Haram in Nigeria, where direct targeting of Christian believers on a comprehensive scale set out to “eliminate Christianity and pave the way for the total Islamisation of the country”.145 Extremist Muslim militancy was also present in other countries in the region, including Tanzania146 and Kenya, where Al Shabaab carried out violent attacks on Christian communities. Elsewhere, extremist groups exploited domestic conflicts and unrest in countries such as Somalia147 where violence against Christians took place against a backdrop of popular uprisings, economic breakdown and endemic poverty. The threat to Christians from Islamist militancy was by no means confined to societal groups. Sudan continued to rank as one of the most dangerous countries for Christians;148 destruction of church property, harassment, arbitrary arrest initiated by state actors remained a problem and non-Muslims149 were punished for breaking Islamic Shari‘a law.

Reports consistently showed that in Nigeria, month after month, on average hundreds of Christians were being killed for reasons to which their faith was integral.150 An investigation showed that in 2018 far more Christians in Nigeria were killed in violence in which religious faith was a critical factor than anywhere else in the world; Nigeria accounted for 3,731 of the 4,136 fatalities: 90 percent of the total.151 The single-greatest threat to Christians over the period under review came from Islamist militant group Boko Haram, with US intelligence reports in 2015 suggesting that 200,000 Christians were at risk of being killed.152The extremist movement’s campaign was not just directed against Christians but towards all ’political or social activity associated with Western society‘153, with attacks on government buildings, markets and schools. That said, Christians continued to be a prominent target. Those worst affected included Christian women and girls ‘abducted, and forced to convert, enter forced marriages, sexual abuse and torture.’154 In 2014, Boko Haram kidnapped 276 school girls from Chibok, a mainly Christian village. A video released later purported to show the girls wearing Muslim dress and chanting Islamic verses, amid reports that a number of them had been “indoctrinated” into Islam. In the video Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau warns of retribution for those who refuse to convert, adding: ’we will treat them… the way the prophet treated the infidels he seized.’155 In its 2018 report on Nigeria, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom described how Boko Haram had ’inflicted mass terror on civilians‘, adding: ‘The group has killed and harmed people for being “nonbelievers”‘.156 In Maiduguri city, north-east Nigeria, Catholic Church research reported that massacres by the Islamists had created 5,000 widows and 15,000 orphans and resulted in attacks on 200 churches and chapels, 35 presbyteries and parish centres.157 A Boko Haram spokesman publicly warned of an impending campaign of violence to eradicate the presence of Christians, declaring them ’enemies‘ in their struggle to establish ’an Islamic state in place of the secular state‘.158 Evidence of intent of this nature combined with such egregious violence means that Boko Haram activity in the region meets the tests for it to be considered as genocide against Christians according to the definition adopted by the UN.159

The precise motives behind a growing wave of attacks by nomadic Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria’s Middle Belt has been widely debated, but targeted violence against Christian communities in the context of worship suggests that religious hatred plays a key part. On 24th April 2018, a dawn raid, reportedly by Fulani herders, saw gunmen enter a church in Benue State, during early morning Mass and kill 19 people, including two priests.160 On April 18th 2019 in a detailed account it was reported that on Sunday April 14th Fulani herdsmen killed 17 Christians, including the mother of the child, who had gathered after a baby’s dedication at a church in an attack in Konshu-Numa village, in Nasarawa state’s Akwanga County in central Nigeria.161

Attacks on Christians by Muslim extremist groups took place on a lesser scale in other parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, notably Tanzania and neighbouring countries. In Kenya, 148 people were killed when Al Shabaab militants carried out an attack at Garissa University College. Witnesses stated that heavily armed extremists singled out Christians and killed them.162

Evidence indicated that the Al-Shabaab threat in Kenya had emanated from neighbouring Somalia.163 Here, as was the case in other parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, long-term widespread internal conflict and endemic poverty had incubated a form of religious extremism specifically intolerant of Christians. In 2018, Catholic sources on the ground in Mogadishu, the Somali capital, stated that Christians there were living underground for fear of attacks from militants164 and in July 2017 Somaliland authorities closed the only church in Hargeisa.165 With reports citing the existence of Daesh (ISIS) cells in Somalia, extremist militants were accused of being behind a video, released in December 2017, calling on militants ‘to “hunt down” the non-believers and attack churches and markets.’166

Reports indicate that such attacks on Christians were unprovoked. In countries beset by significant internal conflict such as the Central African Republic, the role played by Christians was less clear. In CAR, widespread attacks – perhaps even “early signs of genocide”167 – against Muslims were carried out by anti-Balaka militants. Reports indicated that the militants styled themselves as ‘defending‘168 Christianity but CAR Church leaders have repeatedly repudiated the notion that anti-Balaka should be characterized as “a Christian group”, pointing to the presence of animists amongst them.169 Attacks on Christians in CAR by ex-Seleka militants were reportedly carried out in defence of Muslims, nonetheless many innocent Churchgoers were targeted.170 In Mali, a peace settlement, which followed the 2013 ousting of Islamist militants, did not pave the way to a complete restoration of law and order. Clergy reporting on the situation in northern Mali described sporadic suicide bomb incidents, but said that there were no specific attacks against Christians.171 However, other reports, including from the south of the country, did describe deliberate targeting of Christians by extremists.172

Elsewhere in Sub-Saharan Africa, responsibility for the persecution of Christians lay with the state. In Sudan, ’the Sudanese government continued to arrest, detain and prosecute Christian leaders, interfere in church leadership matters and destroy churches‘.173 Evidence suggests that since the secession of the south to form South Sudan in 2011, the Khartoum government has increased its clampdown on Christians.174 Over the next six years, 24 churches and church-run schools, libraries and cultural centres were reportedly ‘”systematically closed”, demolished or confiscated on government orders.’175

Other countries with an explicitly Islamic constitution and government also denied Christians their basic rights. In Mauritania, where ’no public expression of religion except Islam was allowed‘,176 foreign worshippers were allowed to worship in the country’s few recognised Christian churches. In a country where ‘citizenship is reserved for Muslims‘,177 a group of Protestants applied for a place of worship back in 2006 and 12 years later had still not succeeded in spite of two subsequent attempts to win government approval for their plans.178

In Eritrea, non-registered Christian groups bore the brunt of government-sponsored religious persecution. A 2016 UN human rights commission found that attacks on unauthorised religious groups including Protestants and Pentecostals ‘were not random acts of religious persecution but were part of a diligently planned policy of the Government.’179  In a country where the regime is suspicious of faith groups as focal points of foreign-inspired insurrection movements, Pentecostals and Evangelicals ‘comprise the vast majority of religious prisoners’.180 Following a rare fact-finding visit to the country by Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, reports emerged of nearly 3,000 Christians imprisoned – with many of them ‘packed‘ into metal shipping containers.181 The government reportedly arrested about 210 evangelical Christians in house-to-house raids throughout the country as part of a renewed clampdown on unregistered Churches.182 There were persistent concerns about the fate of Eritrean Orthodox Patriarch Abune Antonios, deposed by the regime in 2006, put under house arrest and not seen in public for more than a decade.183

Regional Focus – East Asia region

This regional overview brings together two of the world’s regions: South East Asia (focusing on Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam, Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia) and East Asia (focusing on China and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)).184 For the purposes of this overview ‘East Asia’ is used as a catch-all term. Apart from the Philippines, where persecution is only concentrated in the south of the country,185 each of these countries consistently appear on Open Doors’ World Watch List – a ranking that outlines the 50 countries in the world where it is most dangerous to be a Christian. There are extensive levels of persecution in East Asia as a whole. DPRK has consistently registered for the past 18 years as the most dangerous country in the world for Christians; significant numbers of Christians in China are at risk of persecution, and persecution in South East Asia has for two years running been highlighted as a ‘trend’ and ‘region to watch’ in Open Doors UK’s annual World Watch List report186.

The countries under study in this overview all share similar drivers of persecution. This includes persecution by the state, manifested through both communism (specifically seen in DPRK, China, Laos, Vietnam) and nationalism (specifically seen in Bhutan and Myanmar) and Islamic militancy – both through the state (as is seen in Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei) and as a wider force within civil society (in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines). Likewise, Buddhist nationalism is also a force within civil society in Myanmar.

Authoritarianism, communism and nationalism

State authoritarianism is a key driver of the persecution of Christians in East Asia with a number of states in the region suspicious of Christianity and in many cases viewing the religion as foreign and deviant. For instance, the closed state of DPRK acts ruthlessly towards Christians who are seen to act in contrast to the state’s ‘Juche ideology’ which refuses to tolerate any other belief or religious system.187 North Korea’s ‘Songbun’ social stratification system determines who gets access to food, education and health care based on people’s position in one of 51 potential categories, which signify greater or lesser loyalty to the regime. Those in lower categories, including Christians, are considered hostile to the state.188 Citizens of the DPRK live under heavy surveillance, with the state’s National Security Agency co-ordinating efforts to ‘uncover reactionary elements’ and ‘anti-government’ forces. Christians are found within this category, along with spies and political dissidents.189 In fact, spying on behalf of the West is a common accusation made against Christians in DPRK.190

DPRK’s constitution states that citizens have freedom of religion as long as it does not attract foreign intervention or disrupt the state’s social order. It is in light of this that the state ties Christian belief to the West and particularly the United States of America as a way of indicating that Christianity is a national security risk.191 In reality the right to freedom of religion or belief in DPRK is non-existent.192

The risks involved in practising Christianity in DPRK means that it is almost entirely practised underground.193 A former security agent interviewed by Open Doors noted that he was trained to recognise religious activity and to organise fake ‘secret’ prayer meetings so as to identify Christians.194 When Christians are discovered they experience intense interrogation which normally includes severe torture, imprisonment or even execution.195 Those who are imprisoned have reported horrific acts taking place while in custody such as violence, torture, subsistence food rations and forced labour resulting in high death rates.196 Some have argued that the acts of egregious violence carried out against citizens within these prisons amount to crimes against humanity.197

The Chinese government forcibly returns Christians who flee the country, openly violating the international principle of non-refoulement.198 There is evidence that those returning to DPRK from China are tortured, and if there is evidence they engaged with Christians or churches across the border, or if a Bible is discovered on their person, they will likely face life imprisonment or execution.199 A report by the UK All Party Parliamentary Group on Freedom of Religion or Belief highlights the case of a female deportee who was found with a Bible on her return from China. A witness reported that, as soon as the Bible was discovered, the deportee disappeared from the detention centre in which she was being held.200

When it comes to China’s own citizens, its communist ideology and nationalistic outlook leads it to suppress the Christian church in a number of ways. The Communist party in China has historically attempted to limit freedoms throughout Chinese society so as to maintain a strong grip on the country and to ensure it stays in power.201 In recent years President Xi has sought to control the church.202 As part of this, the Chinese state has provided ‘active guidance’ for Chinese churches to adapt to China’s socialist society203 and legislation came into force in February 2018 which gave the state far-reaching powers to monitor and control religious organisations.204 While article 36 of the constitution gives protection to all ‘normal’ religious activity,205 this only extends to religious organisations registered with state-sanctioned religious associations.206 Churches which register with the state and hence become state sanctioned (i.e. ‘Three Self’ churches and the ‘Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association’) are expected to compromise heavily on their right to freedom of religion or belief by removing religious symbols, singing patriotic pro-Communist songs and flying the national flag. Churches which refuse to register with the state (for instance ‘house churches’) have come under great pressure to close and experience surveillance, intimidation, fines and their leaders are regularly detained.207

Accusations against, and arrests of, Christians in China take on subtle forms, with Church leaders accused of embezzlement and fraud as a way of impeding their ministry.208 Churches have also been requested by authorities to remove religious symbols from buildings in Henan province209. Likewise, churches have been demolished and confiscated in Zhejiang and in other regions of the country.210 Concerns over the freedom to sell Bibles online were also reported in 2018.211

In a wide-ranging resolution of 18 April 2019 the European Parliament noted China’s hostility to a number of minorities and noted that “Christian religious communities have been facing increasing repression in China, with Christians, both in underground and government-approved churches, being targeted through the harassment and detention of believers, the demolition of churches, the confiscation of religious symbols and the crackdown on Christian gatherings”. It further called “on the Chinese authorities to end their campaigns against Christian congregations and organisations and to stop the harassment and detention of Christian pastors and priests and the forced demolitions of churches” and “to implement the constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of religious belief for all Chinese citizens.”212

Christians in Laos and Vietnam experience similar suppression by their states (which are likewise influenced by Communist ideologies) as do Christians in Bhutan. Churches in Vietnam, Laos and Bhutan are expected to register with the state so as to receive permission for church meetings.213 In the case of Vietnam and Laos, human rights organisations have noted that those which refuse to register, or have their registration refused, are subject to harassment, intimidation and violence. These churches have had their property seized and members have had their homes destroyed.214 For instance, in June 2016 authorities disrupted a Catholic prayer service held in a parishioner’s home in the Lao Cai province, with security agents reportedly assaulting some of those attending the meeting and confiscating the phones of those trying to record the incident.215 The Montagnard ethnic minorities, many of whom practise Christianity and are located in the Vietnamese central highlands, also experience severe violations because of their perceived difference.216 Indeed, the organisation Human Rights Without Frontiers has noted that the Montagnard community are perceived as a threat to the national integrity and security of Vietnam in which the majority religion is Buddhism.217 In Bhutan Christians have informal meetings closed down by authorities in rural areas.218 Christians in Bhutan have also been refused the right to bury their dead, despite requesting that the government provides allotted burial sites for the community.219

In Laos, Christianity is regularly framed as a ‘foreign religion’ which is at odds with Laos’ traditional culture and this has led to Christians being arrested for explaining the Bible to individuals of other religions.220 Indeed, framing Christianity as the ‘other’ or ‘alien’ and therefore a religion which is out of bounds to citizens of the country is a wider phenomenon across the region. For instance, in Myanmar and Bhutan, both state and societal actors persecute non-Buddhists on the basis of their religious difference. The systematic targeting of the majority Christian Kachin and Chin communities by Myanmar’s state army is undoubtedly both an ethnic and religious issue with evidence that the army has specifically targeted and destroyed the communities’ churches and attempted to convert Kachin people to Buddhism through coercive measures such as denying the community access to education.221

However, Buddhist nationalism as a driver of persecution of Christians is not limited to the state in Myanmar. For instance, research conducted by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom in the Chin, Kachin and Naga regions of Myanmar has documented that both the state and extremist Buddhist monks have been acting in a discriminatory fashion towards Christians by restricting land ownership, intimidating and acting violently towards the Christian communities and by attacking Christian places of worship and cemeteries. An ongoing campaign of coerced conversion to Buddhism has also been reported.222 In 2018 Human Rights Watch reported the destruction of homes and property as a Buddhist mob attacked Christian worshippers in the Sagaing region of the country.223 The Christians living in the Shan region of Myanmar have also been targeted on the basis of their faith by the rebel United Wa State Army224 who have run a systematic campaign of church closures in the region.225

Islamic Militancy

The growing influence of Islamic militancy within the state and society at large is a key driver of the persecution of Christians in the region, leading to Christians being harassed, having their space for religious practise curtailed and in the worst cases egregious acts of violence perpetrated against them.

There are a number of laws in Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei which undermine the rights of minority religions and create an environment of hostility for those who do not practise Islam. For instance, in Indonesia, the implementation of discriminatory laws and regulations such as blasphemy legislation226 and Shari’a-inspired regulations as well as restrictions on church construction undermine the international right to freedom of religion or belief in the country. CSW has argued that Indonesia’s blasphemy legislation is used to silence dissent, criticism and debate in the country with the blasphemy law’s low threshold for proof of intent resulting in it easily being used by Islamic militants looking to silence those with whom they disagree.227 This was undoubtedly the case with blasphemy accusations made against Basuki Purnama (or ‘Ahok’), the former governor of Jakarta and Christian of Chinese descent. With little credible evidence, Puranama was accused of blasphemy for stating that his political opponents were using Quranic verses to stop Muslims from voting for him.228There is no doubt that the accusations were an attempt to derail his bid for re-election as governor of the city.229

Similarly worrying are laws such as Penal Code 298 in both Malaysia and Brunei which makes ‘uttering words etc, with deliberate intent to wound religious feelings’ illegal.230 Once again, this vague and ill-defined language opens up the opportunity for the law to be misused. Brunei also reserves the use of the word Allah for certain contexts and tightly regulates church construction and permits.231 By decree the import of Bibles and Christmas celebrations are banned in Brunei.232 Malaysia’s definition of ethnic Malays as Muslims also undermines the rights of converts in Malaysia. That Muslims may proselytise within Malaysian society, but other religions may not, is also concerning. Furthermore, the probable involvement of the Malaysian special branch in the abduction of Pastor Raymond Koh, as announced by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia in April 2019,233 suggests a connection between state agents and anti-Christian sentiment in Malaysia. Koh had been accused by the Selangor Islamic Religious department of trying to convert Muslims to Christianity in 2011 and hence there is reason to believe the abduction was religiously motivated.234

Beyond the state, Islamic militancy is also becoming a growing problem for Christians within society at large. Evidence that Indonesia’s education system has been infiltrated by extremist Islamic thinking has been shown by one report which indicates that 60% of the country’s teachers are intolerant of other religions.235 Furthermore, Indonesia’s President Widodo’s choice of ultra-Islamic cleric Ma’ruf Amin as his running mate for the 2019 elections236 highlights how public opinion in Indonesia has shifted in recent times. Indeed, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has noted the growing politicisation of religion in Indonesia.237  The bombing of three churches in Surabaya in May 2018 by members of one family, thought to have links to the Daesh inspired Jemaah Ansharut, particularly highlights how dangerous the infiltration of Islamic extremism into Indonesian society has become.238 Likewise, the siege of the southern Philippines city of Marawi by Islamic militants in 2016, which led to Christians being held hostage239, plus the bombings outside a church in Mindanao in 2016240 and of a church in Jolo in January 2019,241 with the perpetrators thought to be Islamic militants, indicates that extremist Islam is an ever-real threat in the majority Christian nation of the Philippines. This highlights the extent to which Islamic militancy is a severe issue right across the region.

East Asia Conclusion

This overview has demonstrated how the extensive persecution of Christians across the East Asia region is driven both by the authoritarian actions of governments influenced by communist and nationalist outlooks and by Islamic militancy found both within the state and within civil society. Ideologies which aim to ensure complete control and which turn the ‘other’ into deviants are prevalent across the region, leading to high levels of persecution.

Regional Focus – Central Asia region

Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan are often known collectively as Central Asia and treated as one region. Azerbaijan and Afghanistan are also on occasion viewed as part of the region, due to cultural and political similarities.242 For the purpose of this Review, we consider all seven countries part of Central Asia.

Central Asia Introduction

With the exception of Afghanistan, leaders of Central Asian countries tend to have come out of the Communist party of the Soviet era.243 Their authoritarian governments reflect the policies and methods of the Soviet era with regard to religious discrimination and intimidation. All religions have been repressed and kept away from the public sphere.244 The states perceive religious communities including Christians “a threat and challenge to their legitimacy.”245 Thus, authoritarian governments maintain tight controls over freedom of religion and expression.246

Christian persecution and discrimination is on the rise in Central Asia, as elsewhere in the world. Several NGOs and governmental bodies have voiced their concerns, including Release International,247 Open Doors,248 Forum 18,249 as well as Human Rights Watch250 and the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).251 In 2018 Release International launched a campaign on behalf of persecuted Christians and churches in Central Asia to raise awareness of the Christian situation there252 and to help the persecuted Christians in the region.253

Apart from Kyrgyzstan, all countries have been listed in the Open Doors World Watch list among the 50 countries in which Christians face the most persecution.254 The 2018 annual report of USCIRF listed Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan among Countries of Particular Concern (CPC). Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan were not far behind: they were listed among the Tier 2 Countries, with regard to the seriousness of the states’ violations of religious freedom and human rights.255

Christian persecution in Central Asia comes in many forms. The most extreme is the criminalisation of Christianity.256 Security police in Tajikistan arrested and fined ten Christians in August 2018 for handing out gospel literature. In Kazakhstan, in 2017, Pentecostal and Protestant churches faced a total ban on religious activities for three months and this continued into 2018.  Within a period of around six months 80 Christians were prosecuted.257 In Turkmenistan Christian women from Muslim background were kidnapped and married off to Muslims. In most Central Asian states, parents are not allowed to take their children to the church or any religious activities. In Turkmenistan Christian prisoners have faced torture, with the police calling their techniques “the Stalin principles”.258

Added to this, in recent years, to prevent the rise of Islamic extremism, the Central Asian governments have further toughened their laws and regulations against religion. Their “anti-extremist” legislation has caused more pressure on ordinary believers. For instance, a Presbyterian pastor from Grace church in Kazakhstan was arrested in 2015 for “causing psychological harm” to church members: he was released later that year, then rearrested as a terrorist on charges of extremism.259

Despite heavy restrictions on religion, Islamic militancy is on the rise in all states of Central Asia. ISIS also recruited some of their fighters from Central Asian states.260 In Tajikistan, Islamic groups are spreading mainly due to poverty and the influence of Iran on Tajik society.

Although the states are the main perpetrators of persecution of Christians, the rise of religious extremism has also increased societal persecution, especially against Christians from a Muslim background. Thus, “Christianity in Central Asia represents an exceptional case: they have conjoined a soviet experience of militant state atheism and that of being a religious minority within Muslim space.”261

The situation of Russian Orthodox and Catholic churches appears to be better than that of Protestant churches, both as the result of the influence of Russia and the fact that the Central Asian states view non-Russian Orthodox Christians as potential Western spies, “who are presumed to be orchestrating anti-regime activity.”262

Contrary to other Central Asian states, the Afghan government is not the main oppressor of Christians, it is rather the Taliban, and other religious extremist groups and society. The state does not require religious communities to register.263 Religious education is not banned and non-Muslims are not required to study Islam in public schools.264

Christians in Central Asia

Islam is the majority religion in all countries of Central Asia. The precise number of Christians in each country is unknown for two reasons: firstly, for political reasons Central Asian governments conceal the correct population of Christians. Secondly, Christians from a Muslim background, for fear of persecution, keep a low profile and do not register themselves as Christians or as members of a church. Nevertheless, the Christian population varies in each country. Based on the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)’s World Factbook, Uzbekistan’s Christian population is estimated at 12 percent: 9 percent Russian Orthodox, and 3 percent other Christian denominations.265 Tajikistan has a Christian population of less than 2 percent. Christians in Kyrgyzstan comprise 10 percent, and in Turkmenistan, they number 9 percent of the population. Kazakhstan has the highest Christian population in Central Asia with over 26 percent.266 Azerbaijan’s Christian population is between 3-4 percent. Afghanistan has a small group of Christians mainly from a Muslim background: their number is unknown. In general, moving towards the north the number of Christians increases, due to the estimated seven million Russian Orthodox Christians from Russia and Ukraine who still live in Central Asia.267 Christian communities also include Catholics, Evangelical and Pentecostal Churches.  Jehovah’s Witnesses are also present.

There are no church buildings in Afghanistan. The small population of Christians worship in private and in secret. Although there is no penalty assigned to conversion from Islam, the Afghan constitution states that where there is no provision in the constitution for a legal case, the judgement can be drawn from the Sunni Islam Hanafi School of Jurisprudence. According to the Hanafi School, conversion from Islam to another religion is considered apostasy and punishable by death, imprisonment and confiscation of properties. Thus Christian converts from Islam fear persecution, not only from the state but also from family and society.268 The U.K.’s All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for International Freedom of Religion or Belief found that in Afghanistan while ‘specific violations against Christians are rarely reported because of security issues… killings of converts… continue’.269 The APPG concluded that ‘a lack of reporting has tended to give the impression that violence against Christians is not taking place in Afghanistan, at times leading to a misunderstanding that it is safe to return Christian converts to the country’.270

Central Asia Persecution Trends

  1. Religious control lawsThe constitutions of all Central Asian countries including Afghanistan support freedom of religion, to varying degrees. However, the existence and implementation of laws regarding religious freedom for Christians or other religious groups suggests otherwise. The five Central Asian countries, despite their constitutions, further restrict freedom of religion and belief by legal means. For example, states’ laws require all Churches and religious communities and institutions, including Muslim communities, to register. Moreover, registration procedures are costly and time consuming which has made it difficult for many churches to register. In Uzbekistan, the law requires a minimum of 50 members for a church to be registered. Since it is illegal for unregistered groups to worship together, members fear to add their names to the list.271 Furthermore, the authorities in Uzbekistan have refused to issue permits for any churches since 1999.Since the adoption of the new law on religious organisations, in March 2016, in Turkmenistan, unregistered Christian groups cannot legally conduct religious activities such as worship or produce religious materials, or face heavy fines ranging “from 100 – 1000 manat ($29-$285) with higher fines for religious leaders and lower fines for members.”272Contrary to Uzbekistan’s binding international human rights obligations an unregistered Baptist church was closed down in the southwestern Navio region, with the authorities saying that “all exercise of freedom of religion and belief without state permission is illegal”.273
  2. Criminalisation of religious activitiesThe criminalisation of religious activities has led to frequent police raids on churches and house groups, “which regularly result in intimidation or arrests, demands for bribes, the confiscation of religious materials and crippling fines.”274In Tajikistan, the state forces all churches to provide information about their leaders and congregations. In Azerbaijan, the government uses a law prohibiting religious extremism to imprison political dissidents and restrict any kind of evangelism and unregistered meetings. Azerbaijan also recently passed a law within the state religious code, such that any religious group meeting without registration would lead to a 1-2 year term of imprisonment for their leaders.275In Kazakhstan, in 2016, police began charging Christians for legal violations without court hearings.276 In Uzbekistan a pastor was found guilty of importing and producing religious literature and was fined 20 times a normal monthly salary. House churches and Bible study groups are increasingly targeted by the police and authorities accusing them of “spreading radical religious teachings.”277 Homes of pastors and church members are regularly searched and their belongings confiscated: even their regular daily religious activities such as Bible study can be deemed illegal278.In Kyrgyzstan, though the situation, in terms of criminalization, is better for Christians, a recent case shows that police tortured a Jehovah Witness detainee.279 In Kazakhstan, in 2017, 284 people were prosecuted for exercising freedom of religion and belief: of these 263 were punished, the majority of them being Christians.280 Tajikistan severely restricts freedom of religion, and imposed a ban on all religious activities without state permission.281 In August 2018 security police arrested ten Christians for handing out Christian literature.282In Kazakhstan, a Presbyterian pastor, Bakhytzhan Kashkumbaev, was jailed for nine months for preaching the gospel in public283. Imprisoned Christian leaders face torture. For example, Pastor Batyr from Turkmenistan was arrested with another three, and they were all tortured. In an interview with Release International, he stated that, “They completely broke us, spiritually, physically and emotionally. They kicked us, beat us and suffocated us with gas masks. They beat us in different ways and used needles. In the end they put us in an electric chair and gave us shocks for being preachers and evangelists for Christ.” The police call their techniques “the Stalin principles.” 284In Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, Pentecostal and Charismatic churches are considered sects and are categorised alongside Jehovah’s Witnesses, the main ‘problem’ being their evangelistic activities.285

    Contrary to other Central Asian states, the main perpetrators of persecution of Christians in Afghanistan are religious extremists including the Taliban. Familial and societal pressures are also significant factors. Based on a confidential report from Afghanistan, Christian converts do not fear persecution from the government but rather from the Taliban. The report explains: “some mullahs [in central Afghanistan] had complained to the Governor about the believers’ groups in the area. The Governor asked for documentation which the mullahs couldn’t present. He threatened them that if they came again without proof, he would prosecute them!”286 Nevertheless, an Afghan family who converted to Christianity had to leave their home town because their daughter’s school found out about their faith and expelled her. The family moved to Kabul, but she could not enrol in school because her former school refused to release her records.287

  3. Restrictions on religious educationThe state strictly controls religious education. For example, some churches reported that surveillance cameras are installed to monitor preaching and religious education in churches.288 The states in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan control all religious education. The justification for doing so is to prevent the growth of religious, mainly Islamic, extremism. The Tajik government has banned children and youth from taking part in religious teaching and prayers. Christian families cannot take their children to church or even to their home Bible study groups. In February 2018, in Kyzylorda, a mother and grandmother brought their little daughter to the church. The police searched the church and investigated whether the child had been reading any religious books and had been given any religious teaching289.Production and distribution of religious materials are also banned and controlled. Violation of such restriction could impact not only individuals but also their whole community.Christians are not allowed to read the Bible in public places such as buses, trains or to tell others about their faith: if they do so, they would be threatened with their church registration being cancelled290.An Afghan law, similarly, prohibits the production and printing of any religious materials that are contrary to “the principles of Islam or offensive to other religions.” It also prohibits promoting religions other than Islam.291
  4. Societal persecutionContrary to Central Asian governments’ anti-religious approach, Central Asian Muslims have a strong identification with Islam, with a conservative interpretation of Hanafi Islam.292 Though conversion to Christianity is not illegal, it is viewed as a betrayal of the family, community and Islam.293 The rise of religious extremism has also increased societal persecution and intimidation against Christians. Release International reports that across Central Asia “Christians from Muslim background face the worst persecution, not only from the state, but also from their families and communities. For example, in Turkmenistan, Christian women from Muslim backgrounds have been kidnapped and married off to Muslims.”294In recent years societal conflicts have broken out between Christians from a Muslim background and their Muslim communities over burial grounds and rites, as well as marriage and the raising of children when a family member has converted to Christianity. There have been reports of physical abuse and sometimes even murder of converts. For example, Collins 2016 quotes one of her interviewees who spoke about a young Uzbek man whose family opposed his conversion, saying “his brothers beat him, they tried to hit his head … they thought it would be better if he were mad” and ultimately the brothers killed him.”295 Police reportedly ignore the persecution of Christians by family and community members, and allow perpetrated violence to continue.296Public opinion in Afghanistan is very hostile towards converts to Christianity. Christians worship in small congregations and in private. Muslim residents are suspicious of Christian NGOs, their activities and projects, which are often viewed as evangelistic tools for the purpose of proselytisation.297In some countries in Central Asia, for example in Azerbaijan, traditional churches and other religious communities have maintained good relationships, socially and interfaith dialogue. However, for security reasons, they keep their distance from non-traditional churches. Turkmenistan prohibits public religious dialogue. The states in other countries maintain and direct interfaith dialogue especially between Christianity and Islam.Central Asia Conclusion

    The situation of Christians in Central Asia is bleak as authorities have further enforced a widespread crackdown on churches and Christian activities. Protestant, Evangelical and Pentecostal Christians are more likely to be persecuted than Catholics and Orthodox Christians. However Christian communities in Central Asia, like elsewhere in the world, are not “simply pawns of persecutors but are driven by their characteristics, their commitments and their theology” from which they draw their survival strategies.298 Their survival strategies, though not proactive, involve “creativity, determination and courage.”299 However they, as in other places with severe repression, have not been afforded the rights which are theirs. Central Asian governments have responsibility to take positive steps to improve religious rights and to eliminate their anti-religious policies, so Christians can not only survive, but thrive.300

    Regional Focus – Latin America

    When it comes to the persecution of Christians, Latin America is something of an anomaly. Unlike other regions of the world where the persecution of Christians is an issue of concern, the countries in Latin America where persecution is reported (Mexico, Colombia, Cuba, Guatemala, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia) are all majority Christian countries.301 In fact, Mexico, where the reporting of violations against Christians on the basis of faith is high, is also one of the most Catholic countries in the world.302

    In many respects it is the strength of opposition303 which the Christian community and its leadership shows to criminal and illegal activity and authoritarian governments in Latin America which results in the persecution of Christians in the region. This is seen in the way in which paramilitary organisations, state militaries and criminal gangs in Mexico, Colombia and Guatemala violently target church leaders (and their families) who condemn violence, discourage church members from joining their ranks or refuse to pay extortionate bribes. In Cuba, church leaders whose churches are not registered regularly have their church premises confiscated or are refused the right to travel. Opposition from church leaders to the governments of Venezuela and Nicaragua has also resulted in the raids of churches and the refusal of basic provisions.

    However, in other instances, it is the minority status of some Christians which attracts persecution. This is seen, for example, in Mexico and Colombia where converts to Christianity from indigenous backgrounds, living on indigenous reserves where only traditional religious practices are permitted, are prohibited from practicing their faith. This comes, in some instances, with the backing of the country’s constitutional courts.

    The role of illegal organisations and state militaries, conflicting religious rights and authoritarian governments as drivers of persecution will now be considered so as to provide an overview of Christian persecution across Latin America.

    Illegal organisations and state militaries

    Violence and fear have become the norms of daily life in Mexico and Colombia, where weak and corrupt governments have left power vacuums filled by paramilitary forces and criminal gangs304 which act violently against the countries’ citizens with impunity. Governments are often too weak to intervene or are even complicit in the illegality of the gangs and paramilitaries themselves. Likewise, illegal forced recruitment by state militaries has also been reported.

    While these activities have had a huge impact on the general population – with over 200,000 deaths and five million displaced as part of the civil war in Colombia,305 and over 200,000 killed or disappeared as part of Mexico’s war on organised crime306 – the Christian Church has been specifically targeted by the actions of paramilitary forces and criminal gangs in the region.

    Church leaders have been widely targeted by paramilitary organisations which see churches and church leaders as a challenge to their authority. This can become violent when the church leaders speak out against the paramilitary organisations’ campaign of violence. Murder is a regular occurrence with the Roman Catholic Multimedia Centre reporting the murder of 45 Catholic priests and one Cardinal in Mexico between 1990 and 2017.307 Indeed Mexico is widely considered one of the most dangerous places on earth in which to be a Catholic priest due to the extent of violence inflicted on clergy in the country.308

    The displacement of church leaders is also a grave issue. For instance, a Christian pastor in the Bolivar region of Colombia was forcibly displaced by guerrillas because he interceded for threatened church leaders as a human rights defender. The reason given by the guerrilla groups for why he should be displaced was because he was‘harming people’s minds with religious discourses’. The guerrillas saw this pastor’s Christian theology as directly in conflict with what they were trying to achieve.309 Evidence found by CSW when interviewing displaced pastors also highlights the connection between displacement and religious activity. For instance, documents published by the criminal organisation FARC-EP have instituted restrictions on ‘evangelical’ chapels in rural areas, with church leaders who have ignored these decrees being threatened and forcibly displaced.310 Open Doors reported 656 incidents of organised crime against faith-based organisations in Colombia between 2010 and 2016, noting that these were only the cases that had been brought to its attention with many more likely having taken place. Over a third of these incidents were perpetrated by the FARC paramilitary organisation.311

    The suppression of Christian teaching is also widespread. A Colombian church leader interviewed by Open Doors noted that members of illegal organisations regularly attend church services to ‘hear what the pastor says’. He noted that this inevitably leads church leaders to be ‘careful about what they say in public’.312 Likewise, if a church leader speaks out publicly against members joining paramilitary organisations or if the church leader’s ministry includes drug rehabilitation work,313 this regularly results in violent opposition from paramilitary organisations or drug cartels. Church leaders who evangelise members of criminal gangs also experience violence. In these cases the gangs see churches as direct competition as a member ‘won’ to the church is a member ‘lost’ to the gang.314 Paramilitary members who become Christians are reportedly not allowed to leave the organisation and have to go into hiding, with some being murdered.315 It has also been reported that female members of illegal organisations have been sexually abused by members of the organisation on conversion as an act of ‘punishment’ and once converted their freedom of movement to attend religious services can be severely limited.316

    In other cases, the paramilitary forces attempt to co-opt church leaders in order to win legitimacy in the eyes of the local population. When this fails, churches are violently targeted for refusing to collaborate with the illegal groups317 or churches may simply be seen as a source of revenue and exhorted for finances, with the threat of violence if churches fail to meet financial expectations.318 These threats aim to keep church leaders in constant fear.319This fear is often used to suppress the right to public worship as churches often fail to meet because they know a public and visible church gathering will attract the attention of illegal groups.320

    However, the persecution of Christians in Latin America goes beyond the persecution of church leaders. The families of church leaders are also affected as they are specifically targeted by illegal groups, with children targeted for recruitment321 and having to be removed to safe houses in other regions of the country.322 Christian schools are also targeted by paramilitary groups with the intention of kidnapping young children so as to force them into being child soldiers.323 Young people who choose not to join paramilitary groups on the basis of their faith experience intense persecution for their choices.324Likewise, CSW has reported cases of young people who have designated themselves conscientious objectors on the basis of their faith (and who are therefore constitutionally entitled not to perform military service) being arbitrarily detained by the Colombian military or even forcefully recruited.325

    In all of this, it is very difficult for victims to speak out as politicians are either too fearful to take action or are complicit in the activities of the illegal groups. Interviews conducted by Open Doors with pastors from Mexico, Guatemala and Colombia indicate that pastors will not provide information to government security services as this information can be filtered back to the criminal gangs, or because the security mechanisms in place are deficient and will not make a difference on their behalf.326 Corruption within the ranks of the police and government authorities means that there is little likelihood of justice.327 In the case of Mexico it has been widely reported that the state’s failure to provide adequate support and protection to church leaders confronted by criminal organisations is of great concern within the international human rights community.328

    Conflicting religious rights

    A difficult issue for Christian churches in Latin America occurs when their right to freedom of religion or belief is pitted against the rights of indigenous groups. This has become a very difficult issue with Colombian court’s ruling in favour of indigenous rights over the Article 18 rights of Christians.329 For instance, a split decision by the Colombian constitutional court in 1998 upheld the right of traditional authorities to enforce participation in traditional religious beliefs on indigenous reserves. This has since been used as precedent in lower courts and by indigenous authorities seeking to prohibit churches on indigenous reserves.

    As part of a legitimate attempt to try and preserve indigenous traditions, indigenous groups do at times take the illegitimate (yet legal) step of closing down churches so as to try and encourage converts to return to traditional beliefs and practices and in the process forcibly displace those who refuse to do so.330 Examples of converts from indigenous communities being refused access to utilities and services, as well as female converts being ostracised by the wider community and losing custody of children so as to avoid the children converting to Christianity, have been reported by Open Doors.331

    It is vital that indigenous and rural traditions are protected, but this should not come at the expense of individuals within indigenous communities who decide to convert to another religion.332

    Authoritarian governments

    While Cuba has signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (IERC) which provide protection for freedom of religion and belief, neither of these treaties have been ratified. Furthermore, the Cuban constitution allows for the imprisonment of an individual the government believes ‘abuses constitutional religious freedom protections’ and hence pits freedom of religion and belief against the government’s agenda.333

    It is in this context of human rights de-prioritisation in Cuba that the greatest level of state-sponsored persecution of Christians in the Latin America region is found. This includes the confiscation or demolition of church property, denominations and churches designated as illegal by the state as well as the surveillance, harassment and arbitrary detention of church leaders.334

    The Cuban government has systematically targeted church property rights in Cuba using Legal Decree 322 which came into effect on 5 January 2015. It was brought in to regulate private properties and enforce zoning laws but has been used by officials to seize church property.335 For instance in 2016 the deeds of the Eastern Baptist Convention Church in Havana were demanded by the state. A year later the deeds had not been returned with the church’s legal ownership of the property left under question. Furthermore, Strong Winds Ministry had its property confiscated by an official of the state’s internal intelligence agency in 2016.336

    Church leaders also experience harassment by the state. For instance, Pastor Yiorvis Bravo Denis has been systematically targeted by the government since 2013. The government nullified the ownership of his church site and family home and then set conditions for the family to return with which he did not feel able to comply. In 2015 he was stopped at the airport and refused the right to travel on the accusation he had unpaid debts to the Cuban state – of which there is no written evidence.337

    Beyond church leaders, other Christian activities also catch the attention of the Cuban regime. In September 2016, Dagoberto Valdes Hernandez, founding editor of Catholic magazine Convivencia, and nine members of his team were summoned to local police stations for interrogation. Beyond being detained by the police, the editor has experienced continued harassment.338 In 2017, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom also reported the harassment of a number of Christian activists connected to Cuba’s Patmos institute which promotes inter-faith dialogue and religious freedom.339

    In Venezuela, there is evidence that church leaders who have spoken out publicly against the government, or which have shown support for the opposition party, have had their church services interrupted, their churches looted and in some cases basic community services withheld.340 In a country where provisions are low and difficult to acquire, this tactic by the state to suppress church leaders from engaging publicly within civil society is particularly egregious.

    Likewise, church leaders, who have arguably been the most outspoken activists demanding that Nicaragua returns to a democratic system, have also found themselves in an extremely vulnerable position in recent years.341 Both Catholic and Protestant leaders have reported that government customs agents have retaliated against them for perceived criticisms of the ruling party. These retaliations include the seizure of imported equipment at customs, delayed import clearance for goods, delayed tax exemptions which they are entitled to as religious organisations and limitations on the travelling rights of pastors. In one particular case the delivery of medical equipment after Hurricane Otto was delayed. It is claimed that pro-government religious groups do not experience similar delays. The state has also tried to draw power away from the Catholic Church in Nicaragua by holding its own Catholic celebrations and festivals which require government officials and staff to work and attend the events. Catholic and Protestant church leaders are fearful of the way religious activities are being used by the state to promote its political agenda.342

    The requirement for churches and faith-based organisations to register with the Bolivian government as part of Law 351 for Granting of Juridical Personality to Churches and Religious Groups’ Act, which was passed in March 2013, is of concern to church leaders in Bolivia who are required by law to provide information on their membership and the organisation’s leadership. According to Protestant church leaders, the law also grants regulatory powers over the internal affairs of churches to the state.343

    Latin America Conclusion

    The main drivers of persecution in Latin America are a combination of illegal organisations, state authorities and rival human rights claims by indigenous groups. While illegal organisations in Mexico and Colombia and state-sponsored persecution in Cuba quantify the greatest level of persecution, illegal organisations in Guatemala and state authorities in Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia are also drivers (or potential drivers, in the case of Bolivia) of persecution in the region.


    Interim Conclusions

    Whilst we make no claim for this Report to be comprehensive in its scope there seems little doubt that it describes a global phenomenon of discriminatory behaviour and physical attacks, some sadly deadly, on Christian children, women and men, often from the world’s poorest communities. Although the regional summaries, which make up the bulk of this Interim Report, detail very significant challenges in places as far apart as North Korea and Latin America, there are more positive developments in parts of the world. The historic accord between the Grand Imam of Al Azhar and His Holiness Pope Francis in UAE earlier this year and the recent announcement of a change in the law in Bolivia to decriminalise proselytism and so recognise the right to change ones religion are positive steps forward.

    These however are the bright lights in the broader landscape of growing abuses in the area of Freedom of Religion or Belief. The regular, widespread discriminatory behaviour against minority communities is interspersed with major incidents such as the Easter Sunday massacres in Sri Lanka (the third Easter in a row that has been targeted by radical islamists). The problem with the rolling global news cycle is that today’s outrage against the Christian Community is all too soon forgotten and replaced by the next.

    Although we have rightly begun this Independent Review by calling out the inconvenient truth that the overwhelming majority (estimated at 80%344) of persecuted religious believers are Christians, we would be doing a major disservice to the powerful legacy of the framers of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights led by Eleanor Roosevelt, and specifically to the memory of the Lebanese Ambassador Charles Malik (the originator and champion of Article 18) if we were not to set the Review properly within the context of the duties, rights and freedoms for all. The comprehensive nature of Article 18 should come as no surprise as it was rooted in two years of global research and an assessment of every human culture and belief system that the drafting committee could persuade to submit evidence. We should have complete confidence in the Universal Declaration and the legal structures and systems that grew out of it, because it was so comprehensive an assessment of the human condition.

    The challenge that faces us at the beginning of the 21st Century is not that we need to fight for a just legal system, it is rather that to our shame, we have abjectly failed to implement the best system that women and men have yet devised to protect universal freedoms.

    Having set out the context of the Independent Review and engaged in a brief tour d’horizon of the current situation around the world, this leaves us in a strong position to review the work of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in its work at all levels over the last five years, specifically in its role to support the 80% of persecuted believers who follow Jesus Christ. Over the course of the next two months I will be engaging with FCO Embassies and High Commissions in a discussion about what actions have or have not been taken. I will also be considering the role of Ministers and policies at the centre of the FCO. I will consider the role of the FCO in representing the UK with like-minded partners, both in bi-lateral partnerships and within a multi-lateral context. And whilst, in the wording of the Terms of Reference, ‘The Review will focus on the work of the FCO; other public authorities may wish to take note of the points of learning.’ And I hope indeed that they will. In short I will be assessing what would be the appropriate response to the needs of the numerically average Christian believer, a young 16 year old Nigerian Christian woman whose rights may well have been taken away in the prime of youth and promise.

    My conclusions and recommendations may be uncomfortable to hear: the challenge for ministers and FCO civil servants will be to turn these into workable solutions that can be implemented. The challenge for the rest of our community will be to partner with some of the finest diplomats in the world to ensure that the freedoms that Britain was at the forefront of creating become a reality for both Christians, and people of all faiths and none, around the world today.

    Rt. Rev. Philip Mounstephen
    Bishop of Truro
    Easter 2019


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    3. Pew Research Center, “Global Uptick in Government Restrictions on Religion in 2016,” Pew Research Center: Religion & Public Life, June 21, 2018, http://www.pewforum.org/2018/06/21/global-uptick-in-government-restrictions-on-religion-in-2016/, accessed 19 March 2019. See also, https://www.iirf.eu/articles/iirf-statements/the-bad-urach-call/,  Appendix A https://www.opendoorsuk.org/persecution/resources/wwl-advocacy-report-2019.pdf , Release International   https://religious-freedom-report.org/main-findings/, accessed 18 March 2019. Return to report
    4. UNHROHC, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/UDHR/Documents/UDHR_Translations/eng.pdf,  accessed 17 2019. Return to report
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    9. Eg. European Parliament, UK House of Commons, US Congress and Nigerian Parliament Return to report
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    31. Luisa Loveluck, “Christians flee Iraq’s Mosul after Islamists tell them: convert, pay or die”, Daily Telegraph, 19/07/14 – In July 2014, less than a month after seizing Mosul in Iraq, Daesh (ISIS) put out a public message “We offer [Christians and others] three choices, the Dhimmi contract [involving payment of the jizya tax]. If they refuse this, there is nothing but the sword. Return to report
    32. Associated Press, “Iraq’s oldest Christian monastery that has stood for 1,400 years is destroyed in seconds,’ MailOnline, 20/1/16 http://dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3407865/Only-On-AP-Oldest-Christian-monastery-Iraq-razed.html (accessed 19/3/19)    Return to report
    33. ‘PALESTINIAN CHRISTIANS – The plight of believers under Palestinian rule’, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, https://int.icej.org/media/palestinian-christians (accessed 19/3/19)    Return to report
    34. Ed. John Pontifex et al, Religious Freedom in the World 2018 report Return to report
    35. Ed John Pontifex et al, Persecuted and Forgotten? A report on Christians oppressed for their Faith 2015-17, Executive Summary, p10. Return to report
    36. Ibid Return to report
    37. ‘A message from Rabbi Lord Sacks, former Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth’, Jewishinfonews, 9/8/14, https://jewishinfonews.wordpress.com/tag/rabbi-lord-jonathan-sacks/ (accessed 19/3/19)  Return to report
    38. Quoted in Paul Vallely, ‘Christians: The world’s most persecuted people,’https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/christians-the-worlds-most-persecuted-people-9630774.htmlThe Independent, 27/7/14 (accessed 19/3/19) Return to report
    39. See ‘Egypt’s Christians mourn 49 killed in Palm Sunday church bombings’ World Watch Monitor, 10 April, 2017 [https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/2017/04/16492/] [Accessed 27/03/19], ‘Egypt: Horrific Palm Sunday Bombings’, Human Rights Watch, 12 April 2017 [https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/04/12/egypt-horrific-palm-sunday-bombings] [Accessed 27/03/19] and ‘Egypt: We need better protection’ Aid to the Church in Need, 11 April 2017, [https://acnuk.org/news/5803/] [Accessed 27/03/19].  Return to report
    40. ‘Pakistan: mourners bury 11 killed in Quetta church suicide attack, as 50 injured’, World Watch Monitor, 18 December 2017, [https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/2017/12/pakistan-bomb-attack/] [Accessed 27/03/19], Hashim, A., ‘Bomb and gun attack on Quetta church kills eight’, Al Jazeera, 17 December 2017 [https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/12/pakistan-quetta-church-hit-suicide-attack-171217082230934.html] [Accessed 27/03/19], BBC News, ‘Deadly attack on Methodist in church Pakistan’, BBC, 18 December 2017, [https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-42383436] [Accessed 27/03/19]. Return to report
    41. ‘One family bombs three churches in Indonesia – our brothers and sisters need their global church family’, Open Doors UK & Ireland, 14 May 2018, [https://www.opendoorsuk.org/news/stories/indonesia-180514/] [Accessed 27/03/19], Suhartono, M., Callimachi, R., ‘Indonesia church bombing carried out by family with children in tow’ The New York Times, 13 May 2018, [https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/13/world/asia/indonesia-church-suicide-bomber.html] [Accessed 27/03/19], European Union external action, ‘Statements on the attacks on Christian churches in Surabaya, Indonesia’, Brussels, 13 May 2018, [https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage_en/44440/Statement%20on%20the%20attacks%20on%20Christian%20churches%20in%20Surabaya,%20Indonesia] [Accessed 27/03/19]. Return to report
    42. See Rees, M., ‘Paying the price twice: how religious persecution exacerbates the vulnerabilities of marginalised groups’ World Watch List report 2019, Open Doors, 2019, p.16 [https://www.opendoorsuk.org/persecution/resources/wwl-advocacy-report-2019.pdf] [Accessed 27/03/19] and ‘Burma army targets Kachin Christian mission school’ CSW, 15 May 2018 [https://www.csw.org.uk/2018/05/15/news/3972/article.htm] [Accessed 27/03/19]. Return to report
    43. For a detailed summary of the Chin people see: ‘Chin’ Minority Rights Group International, undated, [https://minorityrights.org/minorities/chin/] [Accessed 27/03/19]. For a breakdown of persecution against the Chin people see ‘Chin’ World Watch Monitor, undated, [https://staging.worldwatchmonitor.org/tag/chin/] [Accessed 27/03/19]. Return to report
    44. For a breakdown of persecution against the Christians of Nuba see: ‘Nuba Mountains’, World Watch Monitor, undated [https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/tag/nuba-mountains/] [Accessed 27/03/19] and ‘The impact of Sudan’s identity war on Freedom of Religion or Belief’, FoRB in Full, CSW, 29 July 2016,   [https://forbinfull.org/2016/07/29/the-impact-of-sudans-identity-war-on-freedom-of-religion-or-belief/] [Accessed 27/03/19]. For a detailed summary of the Nuba Christians see: ‘Nuba’, Minority Rights Group International, last updated June 2018, [https://minorityrights.org/minorities/nuba/] [Accessed 27/03/19]. Return to report
    45. See Vermeer, J., ‘It’s time: Voices from North Korea’s largest underground movement – the secret church’, Open Doors, 2014. Return to report
    46. See ‘2018 Annual Report’, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, 2018, p.40 [https://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/2018USCIRFAR.pdf] [Accessed 27/03/19]. Return to report
    47. See ‘We’re Indians too: An analysis of escalating human rights violations against religious minority communities in India’ Open Doors, 2018, p.18 [https://www.opendoorsuk.org/about/how-we-help/advocacy/uk-india-resource-booklet.pdf] [Accessed 27/03/19]. Return to report
    48. Bielfeldt, H., ‘Eliminations of all forms of religious intolerance’, United Nations Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Religion or Belief, 2 August 2016, p.13, [https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Religion/A-71-269_en.pdf] [Accessed 27/03/19]. Return to report
    49. Pennington, M., ‘Jurists: NK’s Kim Should Face Crimes Against Humanity Charge’ Associated Press, referenced in US News, 12 December 2017, [https://www.usnews.com/news/politics/articles/2017-12-12/jurists-nks-kim-should-face-crimes-against-humanity-charge] [Accessed 27/03/19]. Return to report
    50. See ‘Raymond Koh’, World Watch Monitor, undated, [https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/tag/raymond-koh/] [Accessed 27/03/19] for a breakdown of the Raymond Koh case. Return to report
    51. A report by Movement for Solidarity and Peace in Pakistan noted that over 1,000 girls from Christian and Hindu families in Pakistan are kidnapped annually and forced to marry Muslim men. See ‘Pakistan: Events of 2017’, referenced in: ‘Pakistan: Events of 2017’, Human Rights Watch, 2018 [https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2018/country-chapters/pakistan] [Accessed 27/03/19]. Return to report
    52. It is likely he was murdered because of his outspoken opposition to paramilitary violence. See: ‘Another Colombian pastor killed, leaving the church terrified’ World Watch Monitor, 14 February 2019, [https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/2019/02/another-colombian-pastor-killed-leaving-the-church-terrified/] [Accessed 27/03/19]. Return to report
    53. Bielfeldt, H., ‘Eliminations of all forms of religious intolerance’, United Nations Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Religion or Belief, 2 August 2016, p.18, [https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Religion/A-71-269_en.pdf] [Accessed 27/03/19] – also note the Special Rapporteur’s comment regarding how women are specifically vulnerable to this type of persecution. Return to report
    54. See examples in See ‘We’re Indians too: An analysis of escalating human rights violations against religious minority communities in India’ Open Doors, 2018, p.12 [https://www.opendoorsuk.org/about/how-we-help/advocacy/uk-india-resource-booklet.pdf] [Accessed 27/03/19] Return to report
    55. See examples in See ‘We’re Indians too: An analysis of escalating human rights violations against religious minority communities in India’ Open Doors, 2018, p.11-13 and 16-17 [https://www.opendoorsuk.org/about/how-we-help/advocacy/uk-india-resource-booklet.pdf] [Accessed 27/03/19]. ‘India: Freedom of Religion or Belief’, CSW, September 2018, [https://www.ecoi.net/en/file/local/1447984/3175_1540664456_2018-09-general-briefings-india.pdf] [Accessed 27/03/19] and ‘Tested by fire: strengthening and supporting India’s persecuted Christians’ Aid to the Church in Need, undated [https://acnuk.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/1805-India-Report-web.pdf] [Accessed 27/03/19]. Return to report
    56. See Rees, M., ‘Death by a thousand cuts: the rise of non-violent persecution as a tool of suppression’ World Watch List report 2018, Open Doors, 2018, p.5-9 [https://www.opendoorsuk.org/persecution/resources/world_watch_list_report_2018_final.pdf] [Accessed 27/03/19] for a discussion around this point. Return to report
    57. See Vermeer, J., ‘It’s time: Voices from North Korea’s largest underground movement – the secret church’, Open Doors, 2014 and ‘Human rights without frontiers newsletter North Korea’, Human Rights Without Frontiers (European Union), undated, [https://hrwf.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/NorthKorea2017.pdf] [Accessed 27/03/19]. Return to report
    58. See Vermeer, J., ‘It’s time: Voices from North Korea’s largest underground movement – the secret church’, Open Doors, 2014, p.5-7 Return to report
    59. See ‘2018 Annual Report’, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, 2018, p.84 [https://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/2018USCIRFAR.pdf] [Accessed 27/03/19]. Return to report
    60. See World Watch Research, ‘Maldives Dossier’, Open Doors, 2019 [https://media.opendoorsuk.org/document/pdf/Maldives%20-%20WWR%20COUNTRY%20DOSSIER%20-%20January%202019%20update.pdf] [Accessed 28/03/19]. Return to report
    61. Bayram, M., ‘Uzbekistan: “Investigations” don’t stop illegal police actions’, Forum 18, 29 January 2019, [http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2445] [Accessed 27/03/19]. Return to report
    62. Corley, F., ‘Turkmenistan: Compulsory re-registration, continuing state obstruction’. Forum 18, 9 October 2017, [http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2323] [Accessed 27/03/19].  Return to report
    63. Bayram, M., ‘Tajikistan: Protestant pastor jailed for three years’, Forum 18, [http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2298] [Accessed 27/03/19]. Return to report
    64. Corley, F., ‘Kazakhstan: One city, two raids, three fines’, Forum 18, [http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2458] [Accessed 27/03/19]. Return to report
    65. See Rees, M., ‘Paying the price twice: how religious persecution exacerbates the vulnerabilities of marginalised groups’ World Watch List report 2019, Open Doors, 2019, p.20 [https://www.opendoorsuk.org/persecution/resources/wwl-advocacy-report-2019.pdf] [Accessed 27/03/19] Return to report
    66. See ‘Tajikistan: Children barred from attending church, 5,000 Christian calendars burned’, World Watch Monitor, 25 February 2019, [https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/2019/02/tajikistan-children-barred-from-attending-church-5000-christian-calendars-burned/] [Accessed 27/03/19] and ‘2018 Annual Report’, United States Commission on International Freedom of Religion or Belief, 2018, p.106 [https://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/2018USCIRFAR.pdf] [Accessed 7/03/19]. Return to report
    67. See Article 18 (4) International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: [https://treaties.un.org/doc/publication/unts/volume%20999/volume-999-i-14668-english.pdf], [Accessed 27/03/19] and Article 13 (3) International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights [https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/cescr.aspx],  [Accessed 27/03/19]. Return to report
    68. A problem highlighted by the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Religion or Belief in 2016: Bielfeldt, H., ‘Eliminations of all forms of religious intolerance’, United Nations Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Religion or Belief, 2 August 2016, p.11, [https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Religion/A-71-269_en.pdf] [Accessed 27/03/19]. Return to report
    69. ibid p.14 Return to report
    70. See ‘2018 Annual Report’, United States Commission on International Freedom of Religion or Belief, 2018, p.157 [https://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/2018USCIRFAR.pdf] [Accessed 27/03/19], ‘Egypt’, Aid to the Church in Need, undated, [https://acnuk.org/egypt-2/] [Accessed 27/03/19]  and ‘Egypt: new church law discriminates against Christians’, Human Rights Watch, 15 September 2016, [https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/09/15/egypt-new-church-law-discriminates-against-christians] [Accessed 27/03/19].  Return to report
    71. See Bielfeldt, H., ‘Eliminations of all forms of religious intolerance’, United Nations Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Religion or Belief, 2 August 2016, p.14, [https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Religion/A-71-269_en.pdf] [Accessed 27/03/19]. Return to report
    72. ‘Nepal’s Christians have to trek into mountains to bury their dead’, World Watch Monitor, 23 March 2017, [https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/2017/03/15929/] [Accessed 27/03/19]. Return to report
    73. See ‘Teaching intolerance in Pakistan’, United States Commission on International Freedom of Religion or Belief, 2016 [https://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/Teaching%20Intolerance%20in%20Pakistan.pdf] [Accessed 27/03/19] and ‘2018 Annual Report’, United States Commission on International Freedom of Religion or Belief, 2018, p.69 [https://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/2018USCIRFAR.pdf] [Accessed27/03/19] and ‘Education: a pathway to convergence – a review of syllabus books taught in Pakistani public schools 2017-2018’, National Commission for Justice and Peace, 2018, [https://www.forum-asia.org/uploads/wp/2018/09/DE-Layout-2018-CURVED.pdf] [Accessed 27/03/19] Return to report
    74.  Petri, D., ‘The interface of churches and organised crime’ World Watch Research, Open Doors, 2012, p.14 [http://opendoorsanalytical.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Interface-of-Churches-and-Organised-Crime-in-Latin-America-2012.pdf] [Accessed 27/03/19] and ‘Colombia: Freedom of Religion or Belief and Freedom of Conscience’, CSW, February 2016, p.4 [https://www.csw.org.uk/2016/02/26/report/2997/article.htm] [Accessed 27/03/19] Return to report
    75. See ‘We’re Indians too: An analysis of escalating human rights violations against religious minority communities in India’ Open Doors, 2018, p.25 [https://www.opendoorsuk.org/about/how-we-help/advocacy/uk-india-resource-booklet.pdf] [Accessed 27/03/19]. Return to report
    76.  See Petri, D., ‘The interface of churches and organised crime’ World Watch Research, Open Doors, 2012, [http://opendoorsanalytical.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Interface-of-Churches-and-Organised-Crime-in-Latin-America-2012.pdf] [Accessed 27/03/19] and ‘Colombia: Freedom of Religion or Belief and Freedom of Conscience’, CSW, February 2016, [https://www.csw.org.uk/2016/02/26/report/2997/article.htm] [Accessed 27/03/19]. Return to report
    77. Fiss, J., Kestenbaum, G., ‘Respecting Rights? Measuring the world’s blasphemy laws’ United States Commission on International Religious Freedom’, July 2017, [https://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/Blasphemy%20Laws%20Report.pdf] [Accessed 27/03/19]. Return to report
    78. See Jaffery, S, ‘Asia Bibi: Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy case’ BBC, undated [https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/resources/idt-sh/Asia_Bibi] [Accessed 27/03/19] for a discussion around blasphemy in Pakistan and the role of evidence or lack of evidence. Also see ‘Limitations of Minorities’ Religious Freedom in South Asia’ United States Commission on International Freedom of Religion or Belief, November 2018, p.6, [https://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/Limitations%20on%20Minorities%20Religious%20Freedom%20in%20South%20Asia.pdf] [Accessed 27/03/19] for a short discussion on the role of blasphemy legislation in Pakistan and its effects on minority faith communities such as Christians. Return to report
    79. See United Nations rights experts, including the United Nations Special Rapporteur for FoRB’s comments on the case here: Shaheed, A., Kaye, D., Zayas, A., ‘Blasphemy law has no place in a tolerant nation like Indonesia – UN rights expert’, [https://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=21646&LangID=E] [Accessed 27/03/19]. It is also worth noting that this case was not solely based on the individual’s religious identity, but that ethnic identity was also a driver of persecution. Return to report
    80. See ‘Prisoner profile’ Release International, last updated 1 April 2016, [https://releaseinternational.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/PP_EF_April-2016.pdf] [Accessed 27/03/19] and See Rees, M., ‘Paying the price twice: how religious persecution exacerbates the vulnerabilities of marginalised groups’ World Watch List report 2019, Open Doors, 2019, p.7 [https://www.opendoorsuk.org/persecution/resources/wwl-advocacy-report-2019.pdf] [Accessed 27/03/19]. Return to report
    81. See Bielfeldt, H., ‘Eliminations of all forms of religious intolerance’, United Nations Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Religion or Belief, 2 August 2016, p.11, [https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Religion/A-71-269_en.pdf] [Accessed 27/03/19]. Return to report
    82. See ‘We’re Indians too: An analysis of escalating human rights violations against religious minority communities in India’ Open Doors, 2018, [https://www.opendoorsuk.org/about/how-we-help/advocacy/uk-india-resource-booklet.pdf] [Accessed 27/03/19]. ‘India: Freedom of Religion or Belief’, CSW, September 2018, [https://www.ecoi.net/en/file/local/1447984/3175_1540664456_2018-09-general-briefings-india.pdf] [Accessed 27/03/19] and ‘Tested by fire: strengthening and supporting India’s persecuted Christians’ ACN, undated [https://acnuk.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/1805-India-Report-web.pdf] [Accessed 27/03/19]. Return to report
    83. See a discussion in ‘We’re Indians too: An analysis of escalating human rights violations against religious minority communities in India’ Open Doors, 2018, [https://www.opendoorsuk.org/about/how-we-help/advocacy/uk-india-resource-booklet.pdf] [Accessed 27/03/19]. Return to report
    84. See Rees, M., ‘Paying the price twice: how religious persecution exacerbates the vulnerabilities of marginalised groups’ World Watch List report 2019, Open Doors, 2019, p.16 [https://www.opendoorsuk.org/persecution/resources/wwl-advocacy-report-2019.pdf] [Accessed 27/03/19] Return to report
    85. ‘Burma army targets Kachin Christian mission school’ CSW, 15 May 2018 [https://www.csw.org.uk/2018/05/15/news/3972/article.htm] [Accessed 27/03/19]. See too ‘Chin’ World Watch Monitor, undated, [https://staging.worldwatchmonitor.org/tag/chin/] [Accessed 27/03/19].  Return to report
    86. See Rees, M., ‘Paying the price twice: how religious persecution exacerbates the vulnerabilities of marginalised groups’ World Watch List report 2019, Open Doors, 2019, p.20 [https://www.opendoorsuk.org/persecution/resources/wwl-advocacy-report-2019.pdf] [Accessed 27/03/19]. Return to report
    87. See ‘2018 Annual Report’, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, 2018, p.103 and p.115 [https://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/2018USCIRFAR.pdf] [Accessed 27/03/19]. Return to report
    88. Release International “Country Profiles- Pakistan”, http://www.releaseinternational.org/pages/country-profiles/pakistan.php  (accessed August 3, 2010). Return to report
    89. The material in this section is drawn from an unpublished paper presented to the Review on behalf of a number of women doing research into this area, but see too https://www.opendoorsuk.org/persecution/resources/wwl-advocacy-report-2019.pdf and https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Religion/A-71-269_en.pdf Return to report
    90. Pew Research Center, “Trends in global restrictions on religion: Middle East-North Africa was region with highest restrictions and hostilities in 2014,” Pew Research Center: religion & public life. June 2016, https://www.pewforum.org/2016/06/23/middle-east-north-africa-was-region-with-highest-restrictions-and-hostilities-in-2014/, (accessed 29 March 2019). Return to report
    91. Amnesty International, “Human rights in the Middle East and North Africa: review of 2018,” Amnesty International, 2019, https://www.amnesty.org/download/Documents/MDE0194332019ENGLISH.PDF, (accessed 28 March 2019).   Return to report
    92. John Pontifex et al., “Religious Freedom in the World 2018 report,” Aid to the Church in Need.2018, https://www.churchinneed.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/RFR-2018-Exec-Summary-Web-version.pdf, (accessed 26 March 2019). Return to report
    93. ACNUK. Persecuted and Forgotten? A report on Christians oppressed for their Faith 2013-2015. Surry: Aid to the Church in Need UK, 2016. http://www.acnuk.org/persecuted#countries Return to report
    94. Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), “Religious identity and Conflict in the Middle East,” FoRB in Full: A blog by CSWhttps://forbinfull.org/2018/08/07/religious-identity-and-conflict-in-the-middle-east/, (accessed 29 March 2019). Return to report
    95. Huma Haider, “The persecution of Christians in the Middle East,” K4D, February 2017. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/59786a0040f0b65dcb00000a/042-Persecution-of-Christians-in-the-Middle-East.pdf (accessed 28 March 2019). See also Pew Research 2015 & 2016. Return to report
    96. Majority of MENA states do not provide accurate statistics regarding their Christian population. (see also Weiner, J. R. Middle Eastern Christians: Battered, violated, and abused, do they have any chance of survival? Jerusalem: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. 2014. http://jcpa.org/text/book.pdf Return to report
    97. Huma Haider, “The persecution of Christians in the Middle East,” K4D. February 2017, https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/59786a0040f0b65dcb00000a/042-Persecution-of-Christians-in-the-Middle-East.pdf, (accessed 28 March 2019) Return to report
    98. Kraft, K. and Manar, S. Hope for the Middle East: The impact and significance of the Christian presence in Syria and Iraq: past, present and future. Open doors, served, UEL and MEC. (2016). https://www.opendoorsuk.org/about/how-we-help/advocacy/H4ME-report, (accessed 26 March 2019). Return to report
    99. Katulis, B., deLeon, R. and Craig, J, “The Plight of Christians in the Middle East Supporting Religious Freedom, Pluralism, and Tolerance During a Time of Turmoil,” Washington, DC: Center for American Progress. 2015.  https://cdn.americanprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/ChristiansMiddleEast-report.pdf, (accessed 26 march 2019). Return to report
    100. Ibid. Return to report
    101. Sara Afshari, “Hate speech against Christians in Iranian state media,” Article Eighteen. March 2019, Unpublished. Return to report
    102. Human Rights Watch, “”They are not our brothers:” Hate Speech by Saudi Officials. Human Rights Watch, 2017. https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/report_pdf/saudi0917_web.pdf, (accessed 31 March 2019). Return to report
    103. USCIRF, “United States Commission on International Religious Freedom – Annual Report,” Washington, DC: U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). April 2016, http://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/USCIRF%202016%20Annual%20Report.pdf, (accessed 28 March 2019). Return to report
    104. San Jones and Owen Bowcott, “Religious leaders say ISIS persecution of Iraqi Christians has become genocide,” The Guardian, 9 August 2014, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/08/isis-persecution-iraqi-christians-genocide-asylum, (accessed 29 March 2019).  Return to report
    105. http://religion-freedom-report.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Religious-Freedom-in-the-World-Executive-Summary-2016.pdf (accessed 5 April 2019) p.7 Return to report
    106. Ben-Meir A. “The Persecution of Minorities in the Middle East. In Ellis K. (eds) secular Nationalism and Citizenship in Muslim countries. Minorities inWest Asia and North Africa. Palgrave Macmillan, 14 January 2018.  Return to report
    107. Release International, “Voice of Persecuted Christians magazine Apr – Jun 2019,” Release International Voice of Persecuted Christians. April 2019.https://releaseinternational.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/RELEASE_MAG_R106.pdf, (accessed 31 March 2019). Return to report
    108. Mansour Borji, “40 years of religious apartheid: Christianity in post-revolution Iran,” Article 18. Feb 11, 2019.   https://articleeighteen.com/analysis/215/, (accessed 26 March 2019). Return to report
    109. Article Eighteen, “Shamiram Issavi’s appeal postponed until after Nowruz,” Article 18, Feb 19, 2019. https://articleeighteen.com/news/298/, (accessed 24 March 2019). Return to report
    110. Middle East Concern, “Annual report 2017”, https://www.meconcern.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/MEC-Annual-Report-2017.pdf, (accessed 26 March 2019).  Return to report
    111. Middle East Concern, Iran: “Church property in Karaj confiscated,” MEC. Dec 13 2016. https://www.meconcern.org/2016/12/13/iran-church-property-in-karaj-confiscated/, (accessed 31 March 2019). Return to report
    112. Middle East Concern, “Annual report 2017”, https://www.meconcern.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/MEC-Annual-Report-2017.pdf, (accessed 26 March 2019). Return to report
    113. Ibid. Return to report
    114. International Religious Freedom Report for 2017 United States Department of State • Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/281138.pdf Return to report
    115. Destruction of Cultural Property in the Northern Part of Cyprus and Violations of International Law. Report for the US Congress April 2009. Directorate of Legal Research LL File No. 2008-01356 Return to report
    116. Anne-Christine Hoff, “Turkey Turns on its Christians,” Middle East Forum, vol. 25: no.3, summer 2018. https://www.meforum.org/7243/turkey-turns-on-its-christians, (accessed 28 March 2019). Return to report
    117. Turkish Association of Protestant Churches Human Rights Violations Report, 2018, South Hadley, Mass. http://www.isrme.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/2018-Human-Rights-Violations-Report.pdf Return to report
    118. Turkish Association of Protestant Churches Human Rights Violations Report, 2018, South Hadley, Mass. http://www.isrme.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/2018-Human-Rights-Violations-Report.pdf Return to report
    119. United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, “Special report: Study revealed numerous passages in Saudi textbooks advocating intolerance and violence,” United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, May 2018,  https://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/USCIRF%20Special%20Report%20-%20Saudi%20textbooks%205-16-18_0.pdf , (accessed 26 March 2019). Return to report
    120. World Watch Monitor, “How easy is it to live as a Christian in Arabian Peninsula?”, Worldwatch Monitor, February 20, 2017.  https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/2017/02/how-easy-is-it-to-live-as-a-christian-in-the-arabian-peninsula/, (accessed 20 March 2019).  Return to report
    121. Adam Becket, Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world, say Pew Report, Church Times. 26 June 2018, https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2018/29-june/news/world/christians-are-the-most-persecuted-religious-group-in-the-world-says-report,(accessed 31 March). Return to report
    122. Cervellera, B., ‘Religious Freedom in Asia’, Religious Freedom in the World 2016 Report, Aid to the Church in Need, [http://religion-freedom-report.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/country-reports/regional-analysis/asia.pdf] accessed 21 March 2019 Return to report
    123. One might also mention Hindu nationalism in Nepal, although Christians there have not experienced problems on the same scale that they have in India. See Wagner, L., ‘The Rise—and Fall?—of Hindu Nationalism in Nepal’, Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, 20 July 2017 [https://berkleycenter.georgetown.edu/responses/the-rise-and-fall-of-hindu-nationalism-in-nepal] accessed 5 April 2019. Return to report
    124. Krausz, T., ‘Religious persecution “worsening in Asia”’, UCANews, 23 August 23 2018 [https://www.ucanews.com/news/religious-persecution-worsening-in-asia/83145]; Religious freedom violations in Asia increasing – UN rapporteur, World Watch Monitor, 24 August 2018 [https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/coe/religious-freedom-violations-in-asia-increasing-un-rapporteur/]. Both sites accessed 15 March 2019. Return to report
    125. Cervellera, B., ‘Religious Freedom in Asia’, op. cit. Return to report
    126. Figures quoted in United States Department of State, ‘Sri Lanka’, International Religious Freedom for 2017, [https://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/irf/2017/sca/281034.htm] accessed 29 March 2019. Return to report
    127. Pontifex, J., and Newton, J., Persecuted and Forgotten? A Report on Christians oppressed for their Faith 2015-17 Executive Summary, Aid to the Church in Need, 2017, p.24-5 [https://acnuk.org/persecuted/]; ‘India’, Religious Freedom in the World 2018 Report, Aid to the Church in Need [https://acnuk.org/india/] Return to report
    128. United States Department of State, ‘India’, International Religious Freedom Report for 2017, p. 16 [https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/281266.pdf] accessed 25 March 2019; Pontifex, J. “Main Findings”, Religious Freedom in the World Executive Summary, Aid to the Church in Need, 2018, p. 11; ‘Attacks on Christians in India double in one year,’ CathNews, 21 February 2018, [http://www.cathnews.com/cathnews/31392-attacks-on-christians-in-india-double-in-one-year] accessed 25 March 2019. Return to report
    129. Pontifex, J. ‘Main Findings’, Religious Freedom in the World Executive Summary, Aid to the Church in Need, 2018, p. 11; According to Human rights Watch “Between May 2015 and December 2018, at least 44 people—36 of them Muslims—were killed across 12 Indian states. Over that same period, around 280 people were injured in over 100 different incidents across 20 states”. Invariably those who keep cows for commercial milk production are not Hindus. See Violent Cow Protection in India, Human Rights Watch, 18 February 2019 [https://www.hrw.org/report/2019/02/18/violent-cow-protection-india/vigilante-groups-attack-minorities] accessed 21 March 2019. Return to report
    130. Pontifex, J. ‘Main Findings’, Religious Freedom in the World Executive Summary, Aid to the Church in Need, 2018, p. 11; ‘Attacks on Christians in India double in one year,’ CathNews21 February 2018 [http://www.cathnews.com/cathnews/31392-attacks-on-christians-in-india-double-in-one-year]; ‘“Hindu radicals want to eliminate us. Help us,” says the bishop of Sagar’, Asia News, 16 November 2017 [http://www.asianews.it/news-en/%26ldquo%3BHindu-radicals-want-to-eliminate-us.-Help-us%2C%26rdquo%3B-says-the-bishop-of-Sagar-42340.html]. Both sites accessed 21 March 2019.For a recent overview of the state of India’s minority groups, see also ‘We’re Indians Too: An analysis of escalating human rights violations against religious minority communities in India’, Open Doors, 2018 [https://www.opendoorsuk.org/about/how-we-help/advocacy/uk-india-resource-booklet.pdf] accessed 5 April 2019. Return to report
    131. Pontifex, J., and Newton, J., Persecuted and Forgotten? A Report on Christians oppressed for their Faith 2015-17, Aid to the Church in Need, 2017 [https://acnuk.org/pakistanpf/]; Smith, S., ‘Pakistani Christian Girl Kidnapped, Raped After Family Refused to Convert to Islam’,Christian Post, 4 October 2016 [http://www.christianpost.com/news/pakistani-christian-girl-kidnapped-raped-after-family-refused-convert-islam-170458/] accessed  22 March 2019. Return to report
    132. According to the APPG’s assessment, ‘Minority women are especially vulnerable due to their religious identity’. Commentary on the current state of Freedom of Religion or Belief 2018, APPG for International Freedom of Religion or Belief, p.24 [https://appgfreedomofreligionorbelief.org/media/Commentary-on-the-Current-State-of-FoRB-2018-APPG-FoRB-online.pdf] accessed 25 March 2019. Return to report
    133. ‘New USCIRF Report: Anti-Conversion Laws on the Rise in South Asia’, USCIRF, 11 December 2018 [https://www.uscirf.gov/news-room/press-releases-statements/new-uscirf-report-anti-conversion-laws-the-rise-in-south-asia] accessed 25 March 2019. Return to report
    134. Limitations on Minorities’ Religious Freedom in South Asia, USCIRF Special Report, November 2018, p. 1 [https://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/Limitations%20on%20Minorities%20Religious%20Freedom%20in%20South%20Asia.pdf] Return to report
    135. “However, in spreading religious faith and in introducing religious practices everyone ought at all times to refrain from any manner of action which might seem to carry a hint of coercion or of a kind of persuasion that would be dishonourable or unworthy.” Second Vatican Council of the Catholic Church, Dignitatis Humanae, 7 December 1965, §4 [http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decl_19651207_dignitatis-humanae_en.html] accessed 25 March 2019; For more context see also Newton, J., Religious Freedom Today: The Catholic View, CTS, 2015, p. 39. Return to report
    136. The Hindu, 23 April 2018 [https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/christian-missionaries-a-threat-to-unity-bjp-mp/article23639773.ece] accessed 21 March 2019; ‘Christian missionaries control Congress, threat to India: BJP’s Ballia MP’, The Statesman, 22 April 2018 [https://www.thestatesman.com/india/christian-missionaries-control-congress-threat-to-india-bjps-ballia-mp-1502625991.html] accessed 21 March 2019; Pontifex, J. ‘Main Findings’, Religious Freedom in the World Executive Summary, Aid to the Church in Need, 2018, p.11. Return to report
    137. ‘Nepal’, Religious Freedom in the World 2018 Report, Aid to the Church in Need [https://religious-freedom-report.org/report/?report=475] accessed 25 March 2019; “Christians in Nepal Suspect Hindu Extremists in Sudden Attacks on Churches”, Morning Star News, 22 May 2018 [https://christiannews.net/2018/05/22/christians-in-nepal-suspect-hindu-extremists-in-sudden-attacks-on-churches/] accessed 22 March 2019. Return to report
    138. While, echoing article 18 of the UDHR, the USCIRF starts with the premise that ‘Freedom of religion or belief implies that people have the right to embrace a full range of thoughts and beliefs, including those that others might deem blasphemous; freedom of expression implies that they have the right to speak or write about them publicly. People also have a right to speak out against what they consider blasphemy as long as they do not incite others to violence’ it goes on to conclude that ‘blasphemy laws, in… conception… remain problematic’. Fiss, J., and Kestenbaum, J., Respecting Rights? Measuring the World’s Blasphemy Laws, USCIRF, July 2017, p. 1 [https://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/Blasphemy%20Laws%20Report.pdf] accessed 28 March 2019. However, this is a potentially reductive view which fails to take account of the fact that, for example, India’s blasphemy laws include prohibitions about damaging or defiling places of worship, disrupting services or disturbing funeral rites or interfering with dead bodies (Indian Penal Code, 1860, Government of India Ministry of Home Affairs, 295A, 296 and 297 [https://mha.gov.in/sites/default/files/IPC1860_0.pdf] accessed 28 March 2019. And legal provisions regarding defamation in a number of national legal codes do little more than prohibit hate speech in a religious context. So while noting that blasphemy laws can be used to restrict the rights laid out in article 18, a more nuanced approach is needed, rather than labelling all laws in this category as necessarily negative. Return to report
    139. Fiss, J., and Kestenbaum, J., Respecting Rights? Measuring the World’s Blasphemy Laws, USCIRF, July 2017, p. 20. Return to report
    140. ‘Pakistan’, Religious Freedom in the World 2018 Report, Aid to the Church in Need [https://religious-freedom-report.org/report/?report=748]accessed 28 March 2019. Return to report
    141. For example, there is the case of Gulalai Ismail. Following an accusation of blasphemy, and calls for her to be killed in Late 2017, in early 2018 the humanist and human-rights activist successfully took her accuser, Hamza Khan, to court. Commentary on the current state of Freedom of Religion or Belief 2018, APPG for International Freedom of Religion or Belief, p.35 [https://appgfreedomofreligionorbelief.org/media/Commentary-on-the-Current-State-of-FoRB-2018-APPG-FoRB-online.pdf]; Janjua, H., and Tomlinson, H., ‘Pakistani feminist turns tables on man after blasphemy slur’, The Times, 5 February 2018 [https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/pakistani-feminist-turns-tables-on-man-after-blasphemy-slur-58xcllwvq] accessed 28 March 2019. Return to report
    142. https://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2019/04/24/world/asia/24reuters-sri-lanka-blasts-claim.html Return to report
    143. Sherwood,H., ‘Christians flee growing persecution in Africa and the Middle East’, The Guardian, 13 January 2016,  [https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jan/13/christians-flee-growing-persecution-africa-middle-east] accessed 28 March 2019; Cilliers, J.,Violence in Africa: Trends, drivers and prospects to 2023, Institute for Security studies, August 2018 [https://www.alnap.org/system/files/content/resource/files/main/ar-12.pdf] accessed 29 March 2019;  Lowry, L., ‘Sub-Saharan Africa a Persecution Powder Keg – Recent Nigerian Attack kills more than 200 Christians’, Open Doors [https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/stories/sub-saharan-africa-on-fire-with-persecution-recent-nigerian-attack-kills-200-christians/] accessed 29 March 2019. Return to report
    144. Millar, J., ‘Armed gangs WIPE OUT 15 villages in mass Christian slaughter in Nigeria’, The Express, 18 February 2018, [https://www.express.co.uk/news/world/919422/christian-persecution-nigeria-islamic-Nasarawa] accessed 28 March 19; ‘Burkina Faso, West Africa’s linchpin, is losing its war on terror’, Economist, 13 December 2019 [https://www.economist.com/middle-east-and-africa/2018/12/15/burkina-faso-west-africas-linchpin-is-losing-its-war-on-terror] accessed 29 March 2019; Parkinson, J., and Hinshaw, D., ‘Islamic state, Seeking Next chapter, Makes inroads through West Africa’, Wall Street Journal [https://www.economist.com/middle-east-and-africa/2018/12/15/burkina-faso-west-africas-linchpin-is-losing-its-war-on-terror] accessed 29 March 2019. Return to report
    145. Atori, D., ‘Boko Haram plans to eliminate Christians – Catholic Bishops’, The Eagle online, 13 April18 [https://theeagleonline.com.ng/boko-haram-plans-to-eliminate-christians-catholic-bishops/] accessed 28March 19. Return to report
    146. Lopez Lucia, E., ‘Islamist radicalisation and terrorism in Tanzania’, Governance, Social Development, Humanitarian, Conflict – Applied Knowledge Services, 18 May 2015, [http://www.gsdrc.org/docs/open/hdq1223.pdf] accessed 28 March 2019. Return to report
    147. ‘Vier Soldaten bei Angriff auf AU-Stützpunkt in Somalia getötet’, Tiroler Tageszeitung, 1 April 2018, [http://www.tt.com/home/14196596-91/vier-soldaten-bei-angriff-auf-au-st%C3%BCtzpunkt-in-somalia-get%C3%B6tet.csp] accessed 28/3/19. Return to report
    148. Rees, M., World Watch List 2019 Open Doors, 16 January 2019 [https://www.opendoors.org.za/christian-persecution/world-watch-list/sudan/] – Open Doors ranked Sudan six in its World Watch List 2019 of countries with the most severe persecution of Christians (accessed 28 March 2019) Return to report
    149. United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, 2018 Annual Report, p. 90-96 – Sudan report [https://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/2018USCIRFAR.pdf] accessed 28 March 2019. Return to report
    150. Agbo, D., and Nwaiwu, C., ‘Nigeria: Herdsmen, Boko Haram Killed 1,750 Christians in First Six Months of 2018 – Intersociety’, AllAfrica, 3 July 2018[ https://allafrica.com/stories/201807030269.html] accessed 28 March 2019. Return to report
    151. Rees, M., Op. cit., Nigeria report [https://staging.worldwatchmonitor.org/countries/nigeria/](accessed 28/3/19 Return to report
    152. ‘Boko Haram: 200,000 Christians at Risk of Massacre in Nigeria’, NBC News, 14 February 2015, [https://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/missing-nigeria-schoolgirls/boko-haram-200-000-christians-risk-massacre-nigeria-n306211] accessed 28 March 2019. Return to report
    153. ‘Who are Nigeria’s Boko Haram Islamist group? BBC News, 24 November 2016, [https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-13809501] accessed 28 March 2019. Return to report
    154. USCIRF, Op cit, p.55 [https://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/2018USCIRFAR.pdf] accessed 28March 2019. Return to report
    155. Nossiter, A., ‘Tales of Escapees in Nigeria Add to Worries About Other Kidnapped Girls, The New York Times, 14 May 2014 [https://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/15/world/africa/tales-of-escapees-in-nigeria-add-to-worries-about-other-kidnapped-girls.html]accessed 28 March 2019. Return to report
    156. USCIRF, Op cit, p. 55 [https://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/2018USCIRFAR.pdf] accessed 28 March 2019. Return to report
    157. Ed. Pontifex, J., and Newton, J., Persecuted and Forgotten? A Report on Christians oppressed for their Faith 2015-17 – Executive Summary, p.17 drawing on research collected in-country by ACN fact-finding teams [https://acnuk.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/PF2017-Exec-Summ-WEB-VERSION.pdf] accessed 28 March 2019. Return to report
    158. Stoyan Zaimov, ‘Boko Haram Explains Why It Kills Christians, Desire for an Islamic Nigeria’, The Christian Post, 12/6/12, https://www.christianpost.com/news/boko-haram-explains-attacking-christians-desire-for-an-islamic-agenda-76669 accessed 28/3/19. Return to report
    159. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, adopted by Resolution 260 (111) A of the UN General Assembly on 09 December 1948  [http://preventgenocide.org/law/convention/text.htm] accessed 19 March 2019; A definition which has been asserted by Nigeria’s house of representatives, see House of Representatives, Federal Republic of Nigeria, Votes and Proceedings, 8th National Assembly, Fourth Session, No.1, Tuesday 3 July 2018, p. 7 [http://placng.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/House-of-Reps-votes-and-proceedings-Tuesday-3rd-July-2018.pdf] accessed 25 March 2019. Return to report
    160. ‘Nigerian herdsmen kill 19 in Catholic church attack’, The Catholic World Report, 26 April 2018, [https://www.catholicworldreport.com/2018/04/26/nigerian-herdsmen-kill-19-in-catholic-church-attack/] accessed 28 March 2019. Return to report
    161. https://www.christianheadlines.com/blog/muslim-fulani-herdsmen-massacre-christians-after-baby-dedication-in-nigeria.html Return to report
    162. Laing, A., and Pfanz, M., ‘Kenya University attack: “They were lined up and executed”’, The Telegraph, 3 April 2015, [https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/kenya/11514500/Kenya-university-attack-They-were-lined-up-and-executed.html] accessed 28 March 2019. Return to report
    163. ‘Al Shabaab still a threat to Kenya, new UN report says’, The Star, 19 November 2018 [https://www.the-star.co.ke/news/2018-11-19-al-shabaab-still-a-threat-to-kenya-new-un-report-says/] accessed 28 March 2019. Return to report
    164. ‘AFRICA/SOMALIA – ‘A small community of Somali Christians lives their faith in hiding’, Agenzia Fides, 28 February 2018[ http://www.fides.org/en/news/63823-AFRICA_SOMALIA_A_small_community_of_Somali_Christians_lives_their_faith_in_hiding] accessed 28 March 2019. Return to report
    165. US Department of State, ‘International Religious Freedom Report for 2017’, Somalia report [https://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/irf/religiousfreedom/index.htm#wrapper]  accessed 28 March 2019. Return to report
    166. ‘Vier Soldaten bei Angriff auf AU-Stützpunkt in Somalia getötet’, Tiroler Tageszeitung, 1/4/18, http://www.tt.com/home/14196596-91/vier-soldaten-bei-angriff-auf-au-st%C3%BCtzpunkt-in-somalia-get%C3%B6tet.csp accessed 28 March 2019. Return to report
    167. USCIRF, Op.cit., p. 24, Central African Republic report – ‘Key Findings’,  [https://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/2018USCIRFAR.pdf] accessed 28 March 2019. Return to report
    168. ‘Who are the anti-balaka of CAR?’, The New Humanitarian, 12/2/14,  [http://www.thenewhumanitarian.org/analysis/2014/02/12/who-are-anti-balaka-car] accessed 28 March 2019. Return to report
    169. ‘There are no Christian militias killing Muslims in the Central African Republic, ACN News, 17 February 2014 [www.members4.boardhost.com/acnaus/msg/1392602320.html] accessed 28 March 2019;; See also Mellgard, E., ‘What is the Antibalaka’, Tony Blair Institute for Global Change [https://institute.global/insight/co-existence/what-antibalaka] accessed 29 March 2019. Return to report
    170. Moore, J., ‘Gunmen Attack Church in Central African Republic, and Warn of More Violence’, The New York Times, 2 May 2018 [https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/02/world/africa/church-attack-central-african-republic.html] accessed 28 March 2019. Return to report
    171. ‘Christen in Mali – Pater Germain im Interview, Zenit, 20 May 2016 [ https://de.zenit.org/articles/christen-in-mali-pater-germain-im-gespraech/] accessed 28 March 2019. Return to report
    172. US Department of State, International Religious Freedom Report for 2014 – Mali report  p.3 [https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/238448.pdf] accessed 28 March 2019. Return to report
    173. USCIRF, Op. cit., Sudan report, p.91 [https://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/2018USCIRFAR.pdf] accessed 28 March 2019. Return to report
    174. Pontifex, J., and Newton, J., Op.cit., Sudan country report[ https://acnuk.org/sudan/] accessed 28 March 2019. Return to report
    175. US Department of State, Op.cit., Sudan report, https://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/irf/religiousfreedom/index.htm#wrapper accessed 28 March 2019. Return to report
    176. US Department of State, Op.cit., Mauritania report https://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/irf/religiousfreedom/index.htm#wrapper  accessed 28 March 2019. Return to report
    177. Ed. Pontifex, ‘ACN Religious Freedom in the World 2018 report’ Mauritania https://religious-freedom-report.org/report/?report=463 accessed 28 March 2019. Return to report
    178. US Department of State, Op.cit., Mauritania report [https://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/irf/religiousfreedom/index.htm#wrapper] accessed 28 March 2019. Return to report
    179. Human Rights Council, ‘Detailed findings of the commission of inquiry on human rights in Eritrea’, 8 June 2016, p71, (quoting A/HRC/29/CRP.1, paras. 640-642, 645, 649-657) [https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/CoIEritrea/A_HRC_32_CRP.1_read-only.pdf] accessed 28 March 2019. Return to report
    180. USCIRF, Op. cit., Pp 40-41Eritrea report, https://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/2018USCIRFAR.pdf  accessed 28 March 2019. Return to report
    181. Pontifex and Newton, Op.cit., Eritrea country report [https://acnuk.org/eritrea/] accessed 28 March 2019. Return to report
    182. US Department of State, Op.cit., Eritrea report (Executive Summary)  [https://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/irf/religiousfreedom/index.htm#wrapper] accessed 28 March 2019. Return to report
    183. Ibid; The former Patriarch was seen in public at a service in the Eritrean capital, Asmara, on 16th July 2017.  ‘Eritrea: Patriarch still held incommunicado’, CSW, 4th August 2017, https://www.csw.org.uk/2017/08/04/press/3659/article.htm accessed 28 March 2019. Return to report
    184. See ‘Asia: Economy, general considerations’ [https://www.britannica.com/place/Asia/Economy] for a picture of South East Asia and East Asia within the wider continent of Asia, Accessed April 2019. Return to report
    185. And hence when persecution is analysed for the whole country it does not receive a high enough score to feature on the list. Return to report
    186. See Rees, M., ‘Paying the price twice: how religious persecution exacerbates the vulnerabilities of marginalised groups’ World Watch List report 2019, Open Doors, 2019, p.21 [https://www.opendoorsuk.org/persecution/resources/wwl-advocacy-report-2019.pdf] Accessed March 2019 and Rees, M., ‘Death by a thousand cuts: the rise of non-violent persecution as a tool of suppression’ World Watch List report 2018, Open Doors, 2018, p.21 [https://www.opendoorsuk.org/persecution/resources/world_watch_list_report_2018_final.pdf] Accessed March 2019. Return to report
    187. See Vermeer, J., ‘Its time: voices from North Korea’s largest underground movement: the secret church’ Open Doors, 2014, p.4-5 and Smith, Z., Rand, S., ‘Religion and Belief in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea: a report of the All Party Parliamentary Group on International Freedom of Religion or Belief’, All Party Parliamentary Group on Freedom of Religion or Belief, 2014, p.15-17 [https://appgfreedomofreligionorbelief.org/media/Religion-and-Belief-in-the-DPRK-APPG-on-FoRB-report-Dec-2014.pdf] Accessed April 2019. and Human Rights Watch, ‘UPR Submission, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’ September 2013, p.2 [https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/UPRKPStakeholdersInfoS19.aspx] Accessed April 2019. Return to report
    188. Pontifex, J., Newton, J., ‘Persecuted and forgotten 2015-17 Executive Summary’, 2017, p. 27 [https://www.churchinneed.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/persecution-1-1.pdf] Accessed April 2019. Return to report
    189. See Vermeer, J., ‘It’s time: voices from North Korea’s largest underground movement: the secret church’ Open Doors, 2014, p.5. Return to report
    190.   ‘Total Denial: violations of freedom of religion or belief in North Korea’, CSW, September 2016, p.6-7 [https://www.csw.org.uk/2016/09/22/report/3263/article.htm] Accessed April 2019. Return to report
    191. ibid, p.6-7 Return to report
    192. Ibid, p.3 Return to report
    193. ‘Report of the commission of inquiry on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’ Human rights council, Twenty-fifth session, Agenda item 4, Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention, United Nations, 7 February 2014, p.7-8 and See Vermeer, J., ‘It’s time: voices from North Korea’s largest underground movement: the secret church’ Open Doors, 2014, p.3.  [https://www.ohchr.org/en/hrbodies/hrc/coidprk/pages/reportofthecommissionofinquirydprk.aspx] Accessed April 2019. Return to report
    194. See Vermeer, J., ‘It’s time: voices from North Korea’s largest underground movement: the secret church’ Open Doors, 2014, p.5. Also see: Ah, H., ‘North Korean state security agents infiltrate churches in China to cozy up to South Koreans’ 11 January 2019 [https://www.dailynk.com/english/north-korean-state-security-agents-infiltrate-churches-in-china-to-cozy-up-to-south-koreans/] Accessed April 2019. Return to report
    195. ‘Report of the commission of inquiry on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’ Human rights council, Twenty-fifth session, Agenda item 4, Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention, United Nations, 7 February 2014, p.9 [https://www.ohchr.org/en/hrbodies/hrc/coidprk/pages/reportofthecommissionofinquirydprk.aspx] Accessed April 2019. Return to report
    196. See ‘North Korea: a case to answer, a call to act’, CSW, 2007, p.24 [https://www.csw.org.uk/2007/06/20/report/35/article.htm] Accessed April 2019. Return to report
    197. ibid Return to report
    198. Smith, Z., Rand, S., ‘Religion and Belief in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea: a report of the All Party Parliamentary Group on International Freedom of Religion or Belief’, All Party Parliamentary Group on Freedom of Religion or Belief, 2014, p.13-14 [https://appgfreedomofreligionorbelief.org/media/Religion-and-Belief-in-the-DPRK-APPG-on-FoRB-report-Dec-2014.pdf] Accessed April 2019. Return to report
    199.   ‘Total Denial: violations of freedom of religion or belief in North Korea’, CSW, September 2016, p.6-7 [https://www.csw.org.uk/2016/09/22/report/3263/article.htm] Accessed April 2019. Return to report
    200. Smith, Z., Rand, S., ‘Religion and Belief in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea: a report of the All Party Parliamentary Group on International Freedom of Religion or Belief’, All Party Parliamentary Group on Freedom of Religion or Belief, 2014, p.4 [https://appgfreedomofreligionorbelief.org/media/Religion-and-Belief-in-the-DPRK-APPG-on-FoRB-report-Dec-2014.pdf] Accessed April 2019. Return to report
    201. ‘China: country dossier’, World Watch Research, Open Doors, January 2019, p.11 Return to report
    202. ‘China: more church closures as Party tightens rules for its religious members’, World Watch Monitor, 31 August 2018[https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/coe/china-more-church-closures-as-party-tightens-rules-for-its-religious-members/] Accessed April 2019 Return to report
    203. Rees, M., ‘Paying the price twice: how religious persecution exacerbates the vulnerabilities of marginalised groups’ World Watch List report 2019, Open Doors, 2019, p.20 [https://www.opendoorsuk.org/persecution/resources/wwl-advocacy-report-2019.pdf] Accessed March 2019, and see ‘Defending our values: annual report 2017’ Human Rights Watch, 2017, p.196 [https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/world_report_download/wr2017-web.pdf] Accessed April 2019, Return to report
    204. ‘China 2017/2018’ Amnesty International, [https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/asia-and-the-pacific/china/report-china/] Accessed April 2019. Return to report
    205. ‘China: Freedom of Religion or Belief’, CSW, September 2018, p.1 [https://www.csw.org.uk/2018/10/24/report/4126/article.htm] Accessed April 2019, and ‘World Report 2015’ Human Rights Watch, 2015, p.161 [https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2015] Accessed April 2019. The party reserves the right to decide what is considered ‘normal’. Return to report
    206. ‘China: Freedom of Religion or Belief’, CSW, September 2018, p.1 https://www.csw.org.uk/2018/10/24/report/4126/article.htm] Accessed April 2019. Return to report
    207. ibid, p.1 Return to report
    208. Zhisheng, G., ‘2016 human rights report for china’ China Aid, Christian Solidarity Worldwide and Human Rights Foundation, 2016[https://www.csw.org.uk/2017/10/16/report/3754/copyright.htm] Accessed April 2019. Return to report
    209. ‘China: clampdown reaches Christians in Henan’, World Watch Monitor, 11 April 2018 [https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/2018/04/china-clampdown-reaches-christians-in-henan/] Accessed April 2019. Return to report
    210. Haas, B., ‘China church demolition sparks fears of campaign against Christians’, The Guardian, 11 January 2018 [https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jan/11/china-church-demolition-sparks-fears-of-campaign-against-christians] Accessed April 2019, ‘China: Freedom of Religion or Belief’, CSW, September 2018, p.2 [https://www.csw.org.uk/2018/10/24/report/4126/article.htm] Accessed April 209 Return to report
    211. ‘China for Christians the “grey” area is shrinking’, World Watch Monitor. 16 April 2018 [https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/2018/04/china-for-christians-the-grey-area-is-shrinking/] Accessed April 2019. Return to report
    212. http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=TA&reference=P8-TA-2019-0422&format=XML&language=EN Return to report
    213. A process which extremely bureaucratic and impractical. It also open up the opportunity to act against the groups if they breach the strict rules they must abide by when registered. Return to report
    214. ‘Vietnam: Freedom of Religion or Belief’, CSW, September 2018, p.1 [https://www.csw.org.uk/2018/10/24/report/4130/article.htm] Accessed April 2019, and ‘Summary of stakeholders’ submissions on Vietnam’, Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Human Rights Council Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, thirty-second session, 21 January – 1 February 2019,p.6 [https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G18/332/99/PDF/G18332/99.PDF/G1833299.pdf?OpenElement] Accessed April 2019, and ‘Summary prepared by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in accordance with paragraph 15 (c) of the annex to Human Rights Council resolution 5/1 and paragraph 5 of the annex to Council resolution 16/21’, Human Rights Council, Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review,twenty first session, 19-30 January 2015, [https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G14/191/35/PDF/G1419135.pdf?OpenElement] Accessed April 2019, and ‘Laos: Freedom of religion or belief’, CSW, September 2018, p.1 [https://www.csw.org.uk/2018/10/24/report/4128/article.htm] Accessed April 2019 and Mufford, T., ‘A right for all: freedom of religion or belief in ASEAN’, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, September 2017, p.13 and 23-24 [https://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/A%20Right%20for%20All-FoRB%20in%20ASEAN%20web%20version_0.pdf] Accessed April 2019. Return to report
    215. ibid, p.13 Return to report
    216. See ‘Vietnamese pastor punished for ‘reports’ to US diplomats: Catholic blogger to be expelled to France’ World Watch Monitor, 15 June 2017 [https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/2017/06/18704/] Accessed April 2019. ‘Vietnam: Freedom of Religion or Belief’, CSW, September 2018, p.1 and USCIRF ASEAN, p.24. Return to report
    217. Human Rights Without Frontiers, 2017, p.66 [https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2017] Accessed April 2019. Return to report
    218. Summary prepared by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in accordance with paragraph 15 (b) of the annex to Human Rights Council resolution 5/1 and paragraph 5 of the annex to Council resolution 16/21, Human Rights Council Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review Nineteenth session 28 April – 9 May 2014 [https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G14/108/48/PDF/G1410848.pdf?OpenElement] Accessed April 2019. Return to report
    219. Summary prepared by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in accordance with paragraph 15 (b) of the annex to Human Rights Council resolution 5/1 and paragraph 5 of the annex to Council resolution 16/21, Human Rights Council Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review Nineteenth session 28 April – 9 May 2014 [https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G14/108/48/PDF/G1410848.pdf?OpenElement] Accessed April 2019. Return to report
    220. ‘Laos: Freedom of religion or belief’, CSW, September 2018, p.1 [https://www.csw.org.uk/2018/10/24/report/4128/article.htm] Accessed April 2019. Return to report
    221. Rees, M., ‘Paying the price twice: how religious persecution exacerbates the vulnerabilities of marginalised groups’ World Watch List report 2019, Open Doors, 2019, p.16 [https://www.opendoorsuk.org/persecution/resources/wwl-advocacy-report-2019.pdf] Accessed April 2019.   Return to report
    222. Mufford, T., ‘A right for all: freedom of religion or belief in ASEAN’, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, September 2017, p.7 [https://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/A%20Right%20for%20All-FoRB%20in%20ASEAN%20web%20version_0.pdf] Accessed April 2019. Return to report
    223. Human Rights watch South East Asia report, 2018, p.30-31, [https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/supporting_resources/asean_australia0318.pdf] Accessed April 2019. Return to report
    224. Thought to be sponsored by China Return to report
    225. ‘Churches destroyed, priests questioned in Myanmar’s Shan state’, World Watch Monitor, 20 September 2018 [https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/coe/churches-destroyed-priests-questioned-in-myanmars-shan-state/] Accessed April 2019. Return to report
    226. See USCIRF’s table outlining the range of blasphemy legislation in South East Asia: Mufford, T., ‘A right for all: freedom of religion or belief in ASEAN’, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, September 2017, p.30 [https://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/A%20Right%20for%20All-FoRB%20in%20ASEAN%20web%20version_0.pdf] Accessed April 2019. Return to report
    227. Indonesia: freedom of religion or belief’ CSW, September 2018, p.2 [https://www.csw.org.uk/2018/10/24/report/4127/article.htm] Accessed April 2019. Return to report
    228. See the World Watch Monitor ‘Ahok’ archive for more on this case: ‘Ahok’, World Watch Monitor [https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/tag/ahok/] Accessed April 2019. Return to report
    229. Indonesia: freedom of religion or belief’ CSW, September 2018, p.2 [https://www.csw.org.uk/2018/10/24/report/4127/article.htm] [Accessed 04/04/19]. Return to report
    230. See Mufford, T., ‘A right for all: freedom of religion or belief in ASEAN’, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, September 2017, p.30 [https://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/A%20Right%20for%20All-FoRB%20in%20ASEAN%20web%20version_0.pdf] [Accessed 04/04/19]. Return to report
    231. ibid, p.4 and p.30 Return to report
    232. ‘Brunei: country dossier’, World Watch Research, Open Doors, January 2019, p.11 Return to report
    233. See ‘Public inquiry into the disappearance of Raymond Koh’, Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM), Kuala Lumpur, 3 April 2019.  Return to report
    234. ‘Update: son of abducted Malaysian pastor suspects he may have been murdered’ World Watch Monitor, 2 March 2017 [https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/2017/03/update-son-of-abducted-malaysian-pastor-suspects-he-may-have-been-murdered/] Accessed April 2019. More on the Raymond Koh incident can be read here: ‘Raymond Koh’, World Watch Monitor’ [https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/tag/raymond-koh/page/2/] Accessed April 2019. Return to report
    235. ‘Nearly 6 in 10 Indonesia Muslim teachers intolerant; Many vilify Modern Science survey’, Jakarta Globe, 18 October 2018, referenced in ‘Indonesia: visit report’, CSW, 2018, p.3 [https://www.csw.org.uk/2018/11/08/report/4159/article.htm] Accessed April 2019 Return to report
    236. Indonesia: freedom of religion or belief’ CSW, September 2018, p.2 [https://www.csw.org.uk/2018/10/24/report/4127/article.htm] Accessed April 2019 Return to report
    237. Mufford, T., ‘A right for all: freedom of religion or belief in ASEAN’, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, September 2017, p.28 [https://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/A%20Right%20for%20All-FoRB%20in%20ASEAN%20web%20version_0.pdf] Accessed April 2019. Return to report
    238. Kapoor, K., ‘Family of IS-inspired suicide bombers attack Indonesian churches, at least 13 dead’ Reuters, 13 May 2018 [https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-indonesia-bomb-churches/family-of-is-inspired-suicide-bombers-attack-indonesian-churches-at-least-13-dead-idUKKCN1IE026] Accessed April 2019. Return to report
    239. ‘Kidnapped Philippines priest pleads: Please consider us!’ World Watch Monitor, 31 May 2017 [https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/2017/05/kidnapped-philippines-priest-pleads-please-consider-us/] Accessed April 2019. For more on theMarawi siege, see World Watch Monitor’s Marawi archive: ‘Marawi’ World Watch Monitor [https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/tag/marawi/page/4/] Accessed April 2019. Return to report
    240. Sixteen hurt in Christmas Eve blast at Catholic church in Philippines’, Reuters, 25 December 2016 [https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-philippines-blast/sixteen-hurt-in-christmas-eve-blast-at-catholic-church-in-philippines-idUSKBN14E0GJ] Accessed April 2019. Return to report
    241. ‘Jolo church attack: many killed in Philippines’, BBC News, BBC, 27 January 2019 [https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-47018747] Return to report
    242. Thomas Kunze, “The situation of Christian in Central and South Asia,” KAS International Report. 2011. https://www.kas.de/c/document_library/get_file?uuid=c89ee981-22eb-3ce3-499a-ed9c376cd6e5&groupId=252038, (accessed 5 April 2019). Return to report
    243. Sebastien Peyrouse, “Why do Central Asian governments fear religion? A consideration of Christian movements. Journal of Eurasia Studies, Volume1, Issue 2. July 2010, pp. 134-143. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1879366510000229, (accessed 4 April 2019). Return to report
    244. John Anderson, “Religion, State and Politics in the Soviet Union and Successor States.” Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994.(accessed 25April 2019) Return to report
    245. Kathleen Collins, “Faith and Reason: Christian strategies under post-Soviet repression in Central Asia”, The review of Faith & International Affairs. Vol. 15/1, pp 43-55, March 2017. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15570274.2017.1284398, (accessed 1 April 2019). Return to report
    246. Jeremy Barker, Responding to Religious repression in Central Asia, https://www.religiousfreedominstitute.org/blog/responding-to-religious-repression-in-central-asia (accessed 24 April 2019) Return to report
    247. Release International, “Central Asia clampdown on Christians,” Release International: Voice of Persecuted Christians. September 2018, https://releaseinternational.org/central-asia-clampdown-on-christians/(accessed 8 April 2019). Return to report
    248. Lindy Lowry, “7 reasons why hotbeds of persecution are growing in Central Asia,” Open Doors USA. August 2018. https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/stories/7-reasons-why-hotbeds-of-persecution-are-growing-in-central-asia/(accessed 24 April 2019) Return to report
    249. Felix Corley, “Kazakhstan: Six await trial, cancer sufferer not freed,” Forum 18, 12 January 2018, http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2345, (accessed 1 April 2019).  Return to report
    250. Human Rights Watch, “World Report 2018,” Human Rights Watch, 2019, https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/world_report_download/hrw_world_report_2019.pdf, (accessed 5 April 2019) Return to report
    251. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, “2018 Annual report”, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.April 2018. https://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/2018USCIRFAR.pdf, (accessed 3 April 2019) Return to report
    252. Caleb Parke, “Christian persecution set to rise ‘Sharply’ in 2019, group warns,” Fox News Channel, 7 January 2019, https://www.foxnews.com/world/christian-group-warns-of-sharply-rising-persecution-in-these-countries-in-2019, (accessed 3 April 2019) Return to report
    253. Release International, “Central Asia clampdown on Christians,” Sep 2018. (accessed 24 April 2019) Return to report
    254. Dr Matthew Rees, “World Watch List Report 2018,” Open Doors UK & Ireland, 2018, https://www.opendoorsuk.org/persecution/resources/world_watch_list_report_2018_final.pdf, (accessed 7 April 2019). Return to report
    255. United States Commission on International Religious freedom, “2018 Annual report”, https://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/2018USCIRFAR.pdf, (accessed 6 April 2019). Return to report
    256. https://opendoorsyouth.org/news/what-persecution-looks-like-in-central-asia/ (accessed 24 April 2019). Return to report
    257. Release International, “Central Asia clampdown on Christians,” September 2018 (accessed 24 April 2019) Return to report
    258. United States Department of State, 2013 Report on International Religious Freedom – Kazakhstan, 28 July 2014, https://www.refworld.org/docid/53d9075d14.html, (accessed 25 April 2019) Return to report
    259. Kathleen Collins in Under Caesar’s Sword: how Christians respond to Persecution, edited by Daniel Philipott, Timothy Samuel Shah, P173 (accessed 24 April 2019) Return to report
    260. Nodirbek Soliev, “Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan”, Counter Terrorist Trends and Analyses, vol. 7, No.1, 2015, pp. 50-57. (accessed 24 April 2019) Return to report
    261. Sébastien Peyrouse, “Christian Movements in Central Asia: Managing a Religious Minority in Soviet Times,” Acta Slavica Iaponica, Slavic Research Center, Kokkaido University, vol. 25,2008,  pp. 135 – 161. http://src-h.slav.hokudai.ac.jp/publictn/acta/25/peyrouse.pdf (accessed 29 March 2019).   Return to report
    262. Kathleen Collins, “Faith and Reason: Christian strategies under post-Soviet repression in Central Asia”, The Review of Faith & International Affairs. Vol. 15/1, pp 43-55, March 2017. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15570274.2017.1284398 (accessed 25 April 2019) Return to report
    263. USCIRF 2018 Annual Report.(accessed 24 April 2019) Return to report
    264. Ibid. Return to report
    265. Central Intelligence Agency, “Uzbekistan,” https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/uz.html(accessed 24 April 2019) Return to report
    266. Central Intelligence Agency, “Kazakhstan,” https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/kz.html(accessed 24 April 2019) Return to report
    267. Thomas Kunze, “The situation of Christian in Central and South Asia,” KAS International Report. 2011. https://www.kas.de/c/document_library/get_file?uuid=c89ee981-22eb-3ce3-499a-ed9c376cd6e5&groupId=252038, (accessed 5 April 2019). Return to report
    268. United States Commission on International Religious freedom, “Afghanistan 2017 International Religious Freedom Report,” USCIRF, 2017. https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/281260.pdf(accessed 30 March 2019). Return to report
    269. Commentary on the current state of Freedom of Religion or Belief 2018, APPG for International Freedom of Religion or Belief, p.8 [https://appgfreedomofreligionorbelief.org/media/Commentary-on-the-Current-State-of-FoRB-2018-APPG-FoRB-online.pdf] accessed 25 March 2019; ‘Afghanistan: country dossier’, World Watch Research, Open Doors, April 2018, p.8 [https://staging.worldwatchmonitor.org/countries/Afghanistan/] accessed 28 March 2019. Return to report
    270. ‘Forced back to danger: asylum-seekers returned from Europe to Afghanistan’, Amnesty International, 2017, p.14. Return to report
    271. United States Commission on International Religious freedom, “Uzbekistan 2017 International Religious Freedom Report,” (USCIRF), 2017, https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/281284.pdf, (accessed 4 April 2019). Return to report
    272. Release International 2018. Also reported on the World Watch Monitor Website, “Evangelical churches in Turkmenistan want official registration,” 26 January 2018, https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/2018/01/evangelical-churches-turkmenistan-want-official-registration/ (accessed 25 April 2019). Return to report
    273. Mushfig Bayram & John Kinahan, “Uzbekistan: Religious freedom survey,” Forum 18, September 2017. https://www.refworld.org/docid/59b7f11b4.html, (accessed 3 April 2019). Return to report
    274. Kathleen Collins, “Christian repression and survival in post-Soviet Central Asia,” in Under Caesar’s Sword: How Christians Respond to Persecution, eds. Daniel Philpott and Timothy Samuel Shah, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2018), 162 – 197. (accessed 24 April 2019). Return to report
    275. Felix Corley, “Azerbaijan: Religious freedom survey,” Forum 18, November 2018. http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2429, (accessed 8 April 2019). Return to report
    276. Felix Corley, “Kazakhstan: New Summary fines, No due Process.” Forum 18, July 18 2016, http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2200, (accessed 3 April 2019). Return to report
    277. Lindy Lowry, “7 reasons why hotbeds of persecution are growing in Central Asia,” Open Doors USA. August 2018. (accessed 2 April 2019) Return to report
    278. Release International, “Supporting Christian in Central Asia,” Release International: Voice of persecuted Christians, 2018, (accessed 24 April 2019) Return to report
    279. Release International, “Militants burn Baptist church in Kyrgyzstan,” Release International: Voice of Persecuted Christians. January 2018, https://releaseinternational.org/militants-burn-baptist-church-kyrgyzstan-altar-bible-survives-blaze-unharmed/(accessed 5 April 2019). Return to report
    280. Flex Corley, “Kazakhstan; Religious Freedom survey, September 2018,” Forum 18 News Service, Oslo, Norway, September 2018, http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2409, (accessed 6 April 2019). Return to report
    281. Mushfig Bayram, “Tajikistan: Jailed, awaiting trial on “incitement” charges” Forum 18. 20 March 2019, http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2463, (accessed 6 April 2019).    Return to report
    282. Release International, “Militants burn Baptist church in Kyrgyzstan,” January 2018. (accessed 24 April 2019) Return to report
    283. Release International, “Central Asia clampdown on Christians” Release International: Voice of Persecuted Christians. September 2018, (accessed 24 April 2019). Return to report
    284. The 18 September 2018 News, “Central Asia clampdown on Christians”, quotes the interview. https://releaseinternational.org/central-asia-clampdown-on-christians/, (accessed 25 April 2019). Return to report
    285. Thomas Kunze, “The situation of Christian in Central and South Asia,” KAS International Report. 2011, pp. 67-68. (accessed 24 April 2019). Return to report
    286. Release International source. Unpublished March 2019. Return to report
    287. Release International source. Unpublished March 2019. Return to report
    288. Release International, “Central Asia clampdown on Christians,”  Release International: Voice of Persecuted Christians. September 2018https://releaseinternational.org/central-asia-clampdown-on-christians/ (accessed 8 April 2019). Return to report
    289. World Watch Monitor, “Kazakhstan: Child in church triggered police raid”, Worldwatch Monitor, 28 March 2018, (accessed 24 April 2019). Return to report
    290. Release International, “Central Asia clampdown on Christians,”  Release International: Voice of Persecuted Christians. September 2018, (accessed 24 April 2019) Return to report
    291. USCIRF, 2018 Annual Report.(accessed 24 April 2019) Return to report
    292. Kathleen Collins and Erica Owen, “Islamic religiosity and regime references: explaining support for democracy and political Islam in Central Asia and the Caucasus,” Political Research Quarterly, vol. 65, issue 3, 2012, pp. 499-515. (accessed 24 April 2019) Return to report
    293. Kathleen Collins, “Faith and Reason: Christian strategies under Post-Soviet Repression in Central Asia,” Faith and International Affairs, vol. 15, No.1, 2016, pp 43-55. (accessed 24 April 2019) Return to report
    294. Release International, “Central Asia clampdown on Christians,”  Release International: Voice of Persecuted Christians. September 2018, https://releaseinternational.org/central-asia-clampdown-on-christians/, (accessed 8 April 2019).  Return to report
    295. Kathleen Collins, “Faith and Reason: Christian strategies under Post-Soviet Repression in Central Asia,” Faith and International Affairs, vol. 15, No.1, 2016, pp 43-55.  https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/15570274.2017.1284398, (accessed 28 March 2019). Return to report
    296. Release International, “Central Asia clampdown on Christians,” 2018. Return to report
    297. USCIRF, 2018 Annual Report. Return to report
    298. Daniel Philpott and Timothy Samuel Shah, eds., “Under Caesar’s Sword: How Christians Respond to Persecution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2018. Under Caesar’s Sword: in response to persecution, (accessed 24 April 2019) Return to report
    299. Ibid. Return to report
    300. Jeremy Barker, “Responding to religious repression in Central Asia,” Religious Freedom Institute. February 2018, https://www.religiousfreedominstitute.org/blog/responding-to-religious-repression-in-central-asia, (accessed 1 April 2019). Return to report
    301. See ‘Religion in Latin America: Widespread change in a historically Catholic region’, Pew Research Center: religion and public life, 13 November 2014, [https://www.pewforum.org/2014/11/13/religion-in-latin-america/] Accessed 24/04/19; and ‘Cuba: religious demography –affiliation’, Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures Project, undated webpage Accessed 24/4/19 Return to report
    302. See ‘The global Catholic population’, Pew Research Center: religion and Public Life, 13 February 2013, [https://www.pewforum.org/2013/02/13/the-global-catholic-population/] Accessed 28/03/19; and Lipka, M., ‘A snapshot of Catholic in Mexico, Pope Francis’ next stop’, Pew Research Center, 10 February 2016, [https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/02/10/a-snapshot-of-catholics-in-mexico-pope-francis-next-stop/] (Accessed 25 April 2019)      Return to report
    303. At times religious persecution is due to religious behaviour rather than religious identity. This plays a key role in the persecution dynamic of Latin America. For a wider discussion on this issue, see Petri, D, “Challenges to religious freedom in the Americas” Testimony before the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Sept 2015 (Accessed 25 April 2019) Return to report
    304. See Tate, W., ‘Paramilitary forces in Colombia’, Latin American Research Review, Vol.46, No.3, 2011, pp.191-200 and Tucker, D., ‘Mexico’s most wanted: a guide to the drug cartels’ BBC, 27 March 2018 [https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-40480405] Accessed 24/04/19.  Return to report
    305. Felter, C, Renwick, D., ‘Colombia’s civil conflict’, Council on Foreign Relations, last updated 11 January 2017 [https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/colombias-civil-conflict] Accessed 28/03/19. Return to report
    306. Tucker, D., ‘Mexico’s most wanted: a guide to the drug cartels’ BBC, 27 March 2018, [https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-40480405] Accessed 27 March 2019. Return to report
    307. See Aguilar, S., ‘2017 – A disastrous year for Mexican priests’ The Roman Catholic Multimedia Centre, 2017[http://ccm.org.mx/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/CCM-mid-2017-report.pdf] Accessed 24 April  2019. Return to report
    308. Ibid. Return to report
    309. Petri, D., ‘The interface of churches and organised crime’ World Watch Research, Open Doors, 2012, p.14 [http://opendoorsanalytical.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Interface-of-Churches-and-Organised-Crime-in-Latin-America-2012.pdf] Accessed 27/03/19. Return to report
    310. ‘Colombia: Freedom of Religion or Belief and Freedom of Conscience’, CSW, February 2016, p.4 [https://www.csw.org.uk/2016/02/26/report/2997/article.htm] Accessed 27/03/19. Return to report
    311. See Ramirez, R., ‘Latin America: organised corruption and crime – implications for Christians’. World Watch Research, Open Doors, 2018, p.13  [https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Latin-America-Organized-corruption-and-crime-2018.pdf]  Accessed 24/04/19. Return to report
    312. Petri, D., ‘The interface of churches and organised crime’ World Watch Research, Open Doors, 2012, p.16 [http://opendoorsanalytical.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Interface-of-Churches-and-Organised-Crime-in-Latin-America-2012.pdf] Accessed 27/03/19. Return to report
    313. Ramirez, R., ‘Latin America: organised corruption and crime – implications for Christians’. World Watch Research, Open Doors, 2018, p.10 and Petri, D., ‘The interface of churches and organised crime’ 2012, p.13-14 [https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Latin-America-Organized-corruption-and-crime-2018.pdf]  Accessed 24 April. Return to report
    314. Ramirez, R., ‘Latin America: organised corruption and crime – implications for Christians’. World Watch Research, Open Doors, 2018, p.6 [https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Latin-America-Organized-corruption-and-crime-2018.pdf]  and Petri, D, ‘The interface of churches and organised crime’ 2012, p.13 http://opendoorsanalytical.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Interface-of-Churches-and-Organised-Crime-in-Latin-America-2012.pdf] Accessed 24/4/19. Return to report
    315. ‘Colombia: Freedom of Religion or Belief and Freedom of Conscience’, CSW, February 2016, p.4 [https://www.csw.org.uk/2016/02/26/report/2997/article.htm] Accessed 27 March 2019. Return to report
    316. Jackson, R., ‘Colombia – compound structural vulnerabilities facing Christian women under pressure for their faith’ World Watch Research, Open Doors, 2018, p.33  [https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/COLOMBIA-Compound-structural-vulnerabilities-facing-Christian-women-2018-FINAL-WITH-PREFACE.pdf] Accessed 24 April 2019. Return to report
    317. Ibid, p.13 Return to report
    318. Ibid, p.13-14 and ‘Colombia: Freedom of Religion or Belief and Freedom of Conscience’, CSW, February 2016, p.5 [https://www.csw.org.uk/2016/02/26/report/2997/article.htm] Accessed 27 March 2019. Return to report
    319. Ramirez, R., ‘Latin America: organised corruption and crime – implications for Christians’. World Watch Research, Open Doors, p.9 [https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Latin-America-Organized-corruption-and-crime-2018.pdf] Accessed 24 April 2019. Return to report
    320. Ibid, p.10 Return to report
    321. See Rees, M., ‘Religious minorities are specifically vulnerable: intersectional identity and international aid’, LSE Religion and Global Society blog, LSE, January 2019 [https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/religionglobalsociety/2019/01/religious-minorities-are-especially-vulnerable-intersectional-identity-and-international-aid/] Accessed 28 March 2019; and Open Doors USA, Stories of Christian persecution| Children of Colombia’, YouTube, 7 January 2013 [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Eh4PN3krE4] Accessed 28 March 2019. Return to report
    322. Rees, M., ‘Paying the price twice:’ in ‘World Watch List report 2019 p.19  Open Doors – Paying the price twice: how religious persecution exacerbates the vulnerabilities of marginalised groups’ Accessed 24/4/19 Return to report
    323. Petri, D., ‘The interface of churches and organised crime’ World Watch Research, Open Doors, 2012, p.14 [http://opendoorsanalytical.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Interface-of-Churches-and-Organised-Crime-in-Latin-America-2012.pdf] Accessed 27 March 2019. Return to report
    324. ‘Colombia: Freedom of Religion or Belief and Freedom of Conscience’, CSW, February 2016, p.6 [https://www.csw.org.uk/2016/02/26/report/2997/article.htm] Accessed 27 March 2019. Return to report
    325. Ibid, p.6 Return to report
    326. Petri, D., ‘The interface of churches and organised crime’ World Watch Research, Open Doors, 2012, p.20 [http://opendoorsanalytical.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Interface-of-Churches-and-Organised-Crime-in-Latin-America-2012.pdf] Accessed 27 March 2019. Return to report
    327. Ramirez, R., ‘Latin America: organised corruption and crime – implications for Christians’. World Watch Research, Open Doors, 2018, p.1-4  and Petri, D., ‘The interface of churches and organised crime’ World Watch Research, Open Doors, 2012, p.20 [http://opendoorsanalytical.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Interface-of-Churches-and-Organised-Crime-in-Latin-America-2012.pdfColombia’s problem with corruption can be understood when one considers its ranking in the international transparency ranking. See: ‘Colombia’, Transparency International] Accessed 25 April 2019 Return to report
    328. See ‘Summary of stakeholder’s submissions on Mexico’, Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, United Nations Human Rights Council, Working group on the Universal Periodic Review, 31st session, 5-16 November 2018, Accessed 24/4/19 Return to report
    329. ‘Colombia: Freedom of Religion or Belief and Freedom of Conscience’, CSW, February 2016, p.1 [https://www.csw.org.uk/2016/02/26/report/2997/article.htm] [Accessed 27/03/19]. Return to report
    330. ‘Colombia: Freedom of Religion or Belief and Freedom of Conscience’, CSW, February 2016, p.2 [https://www.csw.org.uk/2016/02/26/report/2997/article.htm] Accessed 27 March 2019. Return to report
    331. Jackson, R., ‘Colombia – compound structural vulnerabilities facing Christian women under pressure for their faith’ World Watch Research, Open Doors, 2018, p.13, 20, 27 Assessed 24/4/19 Return to report
    332. Petri, D., in ‘In choosing Christianity, Mexican tribals risk alienation, eviction from their communities’ World Watch Monitor, 6 April 2017 [https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/2017/04/in-choosing-christianity-mexican-tribals-risk-alienation-eviction-from-their-communities/] Accessed 29 March 2019. Return to report
    333. See ‘2018 Annual Report’, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, 2018, p.149 [https://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/2018USCIRFAR.pdf] Accessed 27 March 2019. Return to report
    334. ‘Cuba: Freedom of religion or belief annual report’, CSW, 24 January 2018, p.3 [https://www.csw.org.uk/2018/01/24/report/3827/article.htm] Accessed 28/03/19, ‘Cuba: country dossier’ , World Watch Research, Open Doors, 2019 Accessed 24 April 2019; and Antonio, J., Petri, D., ‘Cuba: new names but the same approach – changes after elections’, Observatory for Religious Freedom in Latin America, 17 April 2018 [https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Cuba-New-names-but-the-same-approach.pdf] Accessed 28 March 2019. Return to report
    335. See ‘2018 Annual Report’, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, 2018, p.152 [https://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/2018USCIRFAR.pdf] Accessed 27 March 2019. Return to report
    336. ‘Cuba: Freedom of religion or belief annual report’, CSW, 24 January 2018, p.4 [https://www.csw.org.uk/2018/01/24/report/3827/article.htm] Accessed 28 March 2019;  and See ‘2018 Annual Report’, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, 2018, p.151 [https://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/2018USCIRFAR.pdf] Accessed 27 March 2019. Return to report
    337. ‘Cuba: Freedom of religion or belief annual report’, CSW, 24 January 2018, p.4-5 [https://www.csw.org.uk/2018/01/24/report/3827/article.htm] Accessed 28 march 2019.  Return to report
    338. ‘Cuba: Freedom of religion or belief annual report’, CSW, 24 January 2018, p.6-7 [https://www.csw.org.uk/2018/01/24/report/3827/article.htm] Accessed 28 March 2019.  Return to report
    339. See ‘2018 Annual Report’, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, 2018, p.150 [https://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/2018USCIRFAR.pdf] Accessed 27 March 2019. Return to report
    340. ‘Venezuela: country dossier’, World Watch Research, Open Doors, 2019, p.11 and 14 [Accessed 24 April 2019. Return to report
    341. ‘Nicaragua: country dossier’, World Watch Research, Open Doors 2019, p.11 Accessed 28 March 2019. Return to report
    342. ‘Nicaragua 2017 International Religious Freedom Report’ Executive Summary, United State Commission on International Religious Freedom, 2017, p.3-4 [https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/281332.pdf] Accessed 28 March 2019. Return to report
    343. Petri, D., ‘Bolivia: will new legislation criminalize missionary activity? Concerns about religious freedom’, Observatory of Religious Freedom in Latin America, 26 January 2018 [https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Bolivia-Will-new-legislation-criminalize-missionary-activity.docx.pdf] 05/04/19. Return to report
    344. This figure, cited by the Foreign Secretary in his Boxing Day piece in the Daily Telegraph was drawn from research carried out by the International Society for Human Rights (ISHR) in 2009. Although this figure no longer appears on the ISHR website this is simply because it is now ten years old. However in private conversation with leading figures in ISHR they stand by the figure and suggest that it is now a conservative estimate. Return to report

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