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Published On: Thu, Jul 31st, 2014

State Department on Christianity in Middle East: ‘shadow of its former self’

The State Department issued a shocking report on the state of religious freedom around the world this week, noting that Christianity in the Middle East, especially Syria, is becoming a “shadow of its former self.”

Sunni Muslims execute truckers in a video - one example of the rise of violence in the Middle East against religious minorites

Sunni Muslims execute truckers in a video – one example of the rise of violence in the Middle East against religious minorites

The analysis was included as part of a comprehensive report on religious freedom around the world in 2013. The report cited countless examples of governments and militant groups cracking down on religious minorities, everywhere from Pakistan to Egypt to China. The victims included Christians, but also Hindus, Muslims and others.

The report offered a severe warning about religious violence in the three-year-old civil war in Syria.

“After three years of civil war, hundreds of thousands fled the country desperate to escape the ongoing violence perpetrated by the government and extremist groups alike,” the report said. It said that in Homs, the Christian population has plummeted from 160,000 before the conflict to “as few as 1,000.”

The assessment, which the department releases annually, said millions of people were forced from their homes because of their religious beliefs in 2013. In conflict zones, mass displacement has become the “pernicious norm.”

The report also highlighted more than one million people being displaced in the Central African Republic during 2013, amid an upsurge in Christian-Muslim violence.

A Nazi flag went up in Palenstine - just an example of the antisemitism that still exists in Western Europe and the Middle East

A Nazi flag went up in Palenstine – just an example of the antisemitism that still exists in Western Europe and the Middle East

It was also noted that in Southeast Asia, anti-Muslim violence spread from Burma’s volatile west to central Meikhtila, with up to 100 deaths and 12,000 displaced. According to the report, Shia Muslims in Saudi Arabia face “discrimination and prejudice.”

Shia Muslims, as well as Christians, face extreme prejudice and violence in Egypt.

“In Iran, officials threatened, detained and harassed members of almost all non-Shia religious groups,” the report said.

Secretary of State John Kerry called the displacement of families and devastation of communities from sectarian violence a troubling trend in the world. Kerry further cited the “savagery and incredible brutality” by the Al Qaeda-inspired militant group active in Iraq and Syria, known as the Islamic State, saying it had slaughtered Shiite Muslims and forcibly converted Christians under threat of death.

Kerry said 75 percent of the world’s people lives in countries that don’t respect religious freedom, noting that North Korea’s authoritarian government stood out for its “brutal repression” of religious activities, with people from religious minorities isolated in political prison camps and individuals reportedly arrested for just carrying a Bible.

The report also drew attention to anti-Semitism throughout Europe, describing it as “a fact of life” on Internet fora and in soccer stadiums, and leading many Jews to conceal their religious identity.

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