A new report sheds light on the persecution of religious minorities – and Christians are the biggest group affected.
Last week, the European Parliament Intergroup on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Religious Tolerance presented its annual "Report on Freedom of Religion or Belief 2017." The report mentions 34 countries of which 19 significantly restrict the right of people to live in accordance with their faith. It also calls for a strengthening of the mandate of the EU Special Envoy for the Promotion of Freedom of Religion or Belief outside the European Union.
Andreas Thonhauser, director of external relations at Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) International, calls the report an important instrument to draw attention to the situation of religious minorities and especially Christians around the world. He cites, as an example, persecution of Christians in India.
"... ADF International is supporting partners and allies in India who are mainly lawyers defending Christians who are being brought before a court, basically because of their faith," he explains. "For example – and this is mentioned in the report as well – anti-conversion laws in India are increasing, meaning those are laws that keep people from converting from, for example, Hinduism to another religion like Christianity."
That's despite the religious freedom that India's constitution provides, Thonhauser notes.
"This is a very helpful tool also to exert pressure on India to say, Listen, if you want to be a democracy like you say, if you take human rights seriously and you take your own constitution seriously, then you have to change that – and you have to make sure that Christians are free to practice their faith and people are free to become Christians or members of other religions."
Caring about the persecuted, he says, is the first step to making a change.
"There's a lot of tax money in the U.S. going to Pakistan or India or other regions, so it would just be the next step to say [that] if we are supporting those countries with tax money, we want to make sure that Christians there aren't being discriminated against or harassed because of their faith,'" he continues.
"The more people care [and] the more citizens are interested in what is going on with Christians or religious minorities around the world, the more those groups will be protected."