“Religious freedom is a human right”

Damaged cross above Mol © Jako Klamer (KiN)

How is it determined about the worldwide religious freedom? Where are Christians discriminated against or even persecuted? Prof. Thomas Schirrmacher on unsurprising countries – and states in our neighborhood.

Interviewer: You published the yearbook Religiosnfreiheit und Verfolgung und Diskriminierung von Christen 2019, in which countries is it bad about religious freedom?

Prof. Thomas Schirrmacher (Deputy General Secretary of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA)): This is of course a long list, and it always depends a bit on which criteria one uses. There are, of course, those countries where religion itself is not popular. The biggest one is certainly China. There are pastors and priests in prison and many thousands of Muslim Uyghurs in prison camps. The other great country is India. We have a completely different situation there, where Hindu nationalism is spreading and does not want to tolerate cattle breeding for Muslims, for example. At least half of the countries of the world are directly affected.

Interviewer: Also countries in Central Europe?

Schirrmacher: In France, for example, it is already statistically very striking: churches burning or being rioted, attacks on synagogues and mosques. In Germany these are still isolated cases, but we should not think that here live the better people who do not do such things.

Interviewer: Where do Christians in particular suffer persecution?

Schirrmacher: Libya, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, all those countries where there is a majority religion that discriminates against all other religions or, in the worst case, even wants to drive them out of the country. In Turkey, the more religious Erdogan sets himself up, the more this equation comes into play: a Turk is a Muslim, but of course only in the sense of an Islam that Erdogan permits. The individual local Christian churches are still doing relatively well, even though almost all of them cannot be registered. But at the moment, practically all foreign Christians who cooperate in any way with the churches are expelled or, even more frequently, not allowed back into the country. And that gives reason to suspect bad things.

Interviewer: Is enough political attention being paid to this ie??

Schirrmacher: In my opinion not. It is not a question of making this the topic par excellence. Our demand is simply that this human right, which is very, very closely interwoven with freedom of conscience, freedom of expression, freedom of the press, is simply raised to the same level as other rights. It is often overlooked that freedom of expression and freedom of religion is of course not only for religious people. In Germany, this is the freedom of religion, which also includes atheists, who are of course also severely discriminated against or persecuted in many of these countries. And I think that we are only slowly becoming aware of the danger, the more it rolls towards us in Germany, that people want to discriminate against other people or even kill them, simply because they have a different faith or a different world view.

The interview was conducted by Verena Troster.

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