The United Nations has designated August 22 as the International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief. In its own words, the UN marks international days “to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity.”
In 2019, the UN made August 22 the day to acknowledge victims of religion-related violence—and for good reason. That year, on March 15, a madman livestreamed himself murdering 51 Muslims in two New Zealand mosques. Barely a month later, Easter Sunday saw the killing of 290 Christians in churches and elsewhere by a group of terrorists in Sri Lanka. Only a few months prior, in October of 2018, an anti-Semite asserting he wanted to kill all Jews murdered 11 worshipers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.
In 2019, the UN made August 22 the day to acknowledge victims of religion-related violence—and for good reason.
Those three events may have been more dramatic and grabbed more headlines than most instances of violent persecution, but they were by no means isolated. Open Doors, an organization which advocates for persecuted Christians, estimated that from October 2019 to September 2020, over 4,700 Christians were killed around the world for their faith. There were also close to 6,000 incidents of arrests or abduction of Christians due to their religion. By their estimation, 340 million Christians live in countries where they are subject to persecution.
Meanwhile, it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of Muslims in Myanmar and China remain in detention camps and hate crimes against Jews are on the rise. Further illustrating the need to resolve violence against religions, four members of a family in Ontario, Canada were killed this past June when they were deliberately run over by an individual targeting them for their faith.
We should all support the efforts of the United Nations to call attention to this disturbing trend of antireligious violence, and we must keep in mind that violence occurs where hatred, intolerance and bigotry have been given a chance to take root. We must prevent these however we can. And we must each support Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which guarantees to all the rights of freedom of thought, conscience and religion. Encourage actions great and small that create a climate of understanding and tolerance, and help people of different faiths live in peace.