The Worsening Attacks on International Religious Freedom

Attacks on religious freedom are growing in frequency and intensity worldwide. My last article detailed the recent resurgence of religious intolerance in the United States, but matters are even more dire in many other countries.

Two young Buddhist monks
Two young Buddhist monks at a temple in Southeast Asia. Photo by Eskymaks/

This is a difficult topic to write about, and no doubt it is difficult to read. The sheer brutality of anti-religious terrorism and genocide can strain belief. The 2017 Annual Report by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) found that “the blatant assaults have become so frightening—attempted genocide, the slaughter of innocents, and wholesale destruction of places of worship—that less egregious abuses go unnoticed or at least unappreciated. Many observers have become numb to violations of the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.”

Although it can feel more comfortable to numb oneself to these atrocities, they must be confronted. Apathy is the enemy of human rights. Something can be done about it, and the consequences for failing to try will spell the death of one of our most crucial rights: the freedom of belief.

Whatever your religious beliefs may be, it is likely that others who share them are being attacked in some corner of the world. What if it were you?

The USCIRF report details abuses in 16 countries designated as Countries of Particular Concern for severe and egregious violations of religious freedom.

These are just a few examples:

In 2016, Russia criminalized all private religious speech not sanctioned by the state. On April 20th, the Russian Supreme Court submitted a motion to ban the existence of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the country, legalizing religious discrimination under the banner of “anti-extremism.”

Rohingyan refugees.
Rohingyan refugees from Myanmar in Bangladesh. (Photo by Hafiz Johari/

In Myanmar there is impunity for military abuse of religious minorities. Tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims have been attacked and displaced, fleeing violence at the hands of the military. Many Christians have been forced to convert to Buddhism.

The Chinese government routinely imprisons and tortures countless human rights defenders, religious freedom advocates and religious believers. China has been consistently designated a Country of Particular Concern since 1999.

The report goes on and on. Whatever your religious beliefs may be, it is likely that others who share them are being attacked in some corner of the world. What if it were you? What if you hadn’t been born in a relatively peaceful and tolerant country, but instead in a place where your beliefs, your thoughts, and your words could make you a target for imprisonment and torture?

The way to resist the religious suppression of governments and terrorists is to tap into one of mankind’s most noble attributes: the drive to help others. Every religion on earth shares this common purpose. No matter where you are or what you believe, you can promote religious freedom by helping people whose life and liberty is under attack.

Donate to an organization that serves displaced religious minorities. Volunteer with a local charity. Get to know people of other faiths. Research the plight of those affected and share their stories to raise awareness. Use your social media network as a platform to help those in need.

Do something about it. The world needs our help.

Liv W.
LA transplant, writer, activist, freedom fighter.