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Religious freedom threatened all over Asia
Vatican report paints picture of widespread gloom
- Alessandro Speciale, Rome
- October 17, 2012
Issued yesterday in Rome by Aid to the Church in Need, a Vatican foundation charged with helping Catholics in poorer countries spread the faith, the report singled out a âterrible yearâ for Pakistan following the killings of twoÂ top politicians,Â Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti,Â who opposed strict blasphemy laws.
China saw âtremendous violations of religious freedom,â it added, while Vietnam looked to be following its northern neighbor by promoting patriotic religious groups in opposition to the Church.
Myanmar was seen as making little headway towards tolerance of minority religions despite its recent political reforms, while in North Korea religious freedom continued to be âtotally denied.â
Meanwhile, India witnessed growing enforcement of anti-conversion laws which coincided with a rise in attacks against minorities, the report said.
Speaking at the Rome launch yesterday, John Dayal, secretary-general of the All India Christian Council, said the recent rapid rise of extremist Hindu groups in opposition to what they perceive as an Islamic threat was the main factor behind worsening religious persecution during 2011.
âIndia is in a state of denial,â he said. âIt refuses to acknowledge that there is such violence taking place.â
With the lowest group in India's now-discredited caste system now comprising 60 percent Christians, the possibility that âuntouchablesâ could unite under Christianity and pose a threat âto the politics of the upper castesâ had prompted authorities to slowly strip away their right to choose a religious faith, said Dayal.
Elsewhere, attacks by Muslims on Christians continued in the southern Philippines last year, according to the Aid to the Church in Need report, while in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka intolerance between different religions was noted on numerous occasions.
Thailand was seen as one of the few bright spots as one of the first countries in Asia to make âprogress in inter-religious dialogue,â it said.
Religious intolerance jumps alarmingly since 2009
Christians must not fear being branded intolerant, says pope