International Religious Freedom Report 2014 released

Oct 16, 2015 15:05 IST

International Religious Freedom Report 2014The International Religious Freedom Report 2014 was released on 14 October 2015 by the US State Department. The Report attempts to give voice to those oppressed people and to document when and where the universal human right to religious freedom was violated.

The report comprises almost 200 distinct reports on countries and territories. It details the actions of Non-State Actors who committed some of the most egregious human rights abuses and caused significant damage to the global status of respect for religious freedom.

Anti-Semitism continued to be a major problem around the globe with increases in anti-Semitic incidents recorded in many countries. Other concerning trends over the year included increasing use of combating terrorism and extremism as an excuse for unreasonable religious restrictions.

Negative Developments in 2014
• In 2014, governments in the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, and throughout Asia have failed to protect the citizens against the abuses committed by non-state actors including terrorist organizations who have set their sights on destroying religious diversity.
• Governments in Syria, Nigeria, Pakistan, Myanmar and Sri Lanka have lacked in responding to the societal tensions and discrimination against the citizens. For instance, in Pakistan, the government’s general failure to investigate, arrest, or prosecute those responsible for religious freedom abuses promoted an environment of impunity.
• In numerous authoritarian countries around the world have put undue restrictions on religion in the name of combating terrorism and violent extremism

Positive Developments in 2014
• Religious and civil society groups took steps to promote greater respect for religious diversity.
• Improved status of largest population of Christians in Middle East and in Egypt: Under the interim and al-Sisi governments, there have been encouraging improvements in the status of Christians in Egypt. The new Egyptian constitution provides increased human rights protections.
• Release of Religious Prisoners in Turkmenistan: In October, the government granted amnesty to and released from prison eight of nine Jehovah’s Witnesses long incarcerated as a result of their religious convictions, including their principled objection to compulsory military service.
• Societal Response to anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and forms of intolerance: After the February 14-15 terrorist attacks in Denmark, thousands of people of different faiths formed a human ring outside the synagogue in Copenhagen to send a powerful statement that Jews should be able to have their religion in peace.
• Constitutional Chamber ruling part of religion law unconstitutional in Kyrgyzstan: On 4 September, a nine-judge panel of Kyrgzstan’s Constitutional Chamber ruled sections of the 2008 Religion Law unconstitutional, which eased registration requirements for religious organizations with fewer than 200 members.

Status of India in the Report
• While the constitution guarantees freedom of religion, mandates a secular state, it also stipulates that citizens practice their faith in a way that does not adversely affect public order, morality, and health. Six out of 29 state governments of India enforced existing anti-conversion laws.
• There are operative anti-conversion laws in six of the 29 states: Arunachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, and Madhya Pradesh.
• Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Karnataka top the list of states in which Christians faced incidents of targeted communal violence in 2013. There were as many as 151 incidents of anti-Christian violence, with Andhra Pradesh registering 41 cases, Chhattisgarh 28, and Karnataka 27.
• Hundreds of legal cases remained pending from violence during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and the 2002 Gujarat riots. The Nanavati-Mehta Commission on the 2002 riots ultimately released its Final Report on 18 November 2014.
• Civil society activists and Sikh advocacy groups continued to express concern about the government’s failure to hold accountable those responsible for the 1984 communal violence in New Delhi that resulted in the deaths of more than 3000 persons.  

The International Religious Freedom Report, 2014 has been prepared by the US State Department and was submitted to the Congress in compliance with section 102(b) of the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998.

The report, collated by the Office of International Religious Freedom, is based on information from government officials, religious leaders, nongovernmental organizations, journalists, human rights monitors, religious groups, academics, and others.

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