Indian religion

The Global War on Religion | David Landrum

NOTNothing has done more to epitomize and intensify the collapse of human rights than the calamitous US-led withdrawal from Afghanistan. Destroying twenty years of diplomatic, financial, educational and military investments, it demonstrated to the world the unwillingness of Western governments, and in particular the United States, to promote and defend principles that transcend mere national interests. Gone are the days when a “leader of the free world” like John F Kennedy said:

“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we will pay any price, bear any burden, face any trial, support any friend, oppose any enemy to ensure freedom’s survival and success.

Today, while self-proclaimed victims’ groups in the West continue to devalue the discourse of rights in the Olympics of oppression, in the People’s Republic of China the real Olympics are taking place against the backdrop of real victims of injustice. , persecution and, according to the parliament, genocide. The international trajectory is moving away from a consensus supporting a rights-based order (prioritization of democracy, civil liberties and the rule of law) towards what is increasingly described as a values-based order (prioritization of national, religious and ethnic values). While some, frustrated with a progressive corruption of rights at home, may welcome this change as inevitable and a post-liberal opportunity, the stage is set for an era of diminishing human rights around the world.

Christianity is good for any free and diverse society

This week Open Doors published the annual report of the World Watch List which ranks countries that persecute Christians. This is the 30th year of the report, and while Christianity continues to grow across the world, in some places exponentially, the overall picture is quite grim. There is the rise of Hindu nationalist violence in India. There is the expansion of surveillance and censorship in China. And there is the impact of the triumph of the Taliban across Asia, and particularly in West Africa where emboldened jihadist groups threaten to unleash an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe.

To put this into context, in the top 50 countries alone, 312 million Christians face very high or extreme levels of persecution. In the nearly 100 countries studied, more than 360 million people suffer from high levels of persecution and discrimination because of their religion, an increase of 20 million since last year. Globally, it is one in seven Christians.

Why is all this important? Two reasons. First, (and you would expect me to say this) it matters because, despite secular protests to the contrary, Christianity is a good thing for any free and diverse society. Indeed, as historian Tom Holland observed in his book Dominationit is above all Christianity that makes secular protests possible.

Centuries of struggle with, application and misapplication of biblical principles such as dignity, equality, truth, justice and forgiveness, have given us many social goods, rights and freedoms that we enjoy today. today. Cultural blessings that we Westerners not only take for granted, but are busy deconstructing (i.e. destroying). While enjoying the fruits of Christianity, we are pulling out its roots. Whether we can maintain the good things, without the stuff of God, is doubtful. Yet others, mostly in the Global South and mostly poor, are desperate to taste these fruits for themselves. For us, ignoring their plight or denying them the opportunity to “progress” is not only unfair, but also compellingly narcissistic.

The escalating persecution of Christians is also important because it provides insight into the condition and direction of human rights more broadly. Like other rights, Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which affirms freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) for all – and which rightly covers the rights of atheists also in contexts religious majority – is a qualified right in the sense that it must take account of other claims of competing rights. What makes FoRB different is its core value, the way it enables and supports other rights.

As the writer Rupert Shortt has observed, religious freedom is “the canary in the mine of human rights in general”. If it decreases, we can be sure that the freedoms of conscience, of expression, of privacy, of assembly, of movement, etc. will follow soon. This is not an abstract philosophical point. Historically, the extent to which religious minorities have been able to peacefully practice and preach their faith can be considered the best measure of a society’s freedom. Which helps explain why it is often portrayed as the litmus test or cornerstone of democracy.

An attack on freedom anywhere is an attack on freedom everywhere

As you can imagine, this fundamental freedom for minorities to believe or disbelieve, or to worship, or to ascribe moral value to the family rather than the morality of the state is clearly problematic for demagogues and ideologies intolerant of dissent or difference. Indeed, the more authoritarian a society, such as North Korea or Iran, the more it is seen as a primary threat to the status quo of religious freedom, and the more Christians are persecuted. This also applies to terrorist networks who, while claiming to want to bring heaven to earth, are very much driven by a desire to restrict people’s freedoms to encounter, engage with and evaluate other belief systems. – and change what they believe. This is what really terrifies terrorists.

It is heartening to see that in recent years there has been a growing awareness in British politics of the critical dynamics of religion in world affairs and how promoting and protecting religious freedom can bring much-needed stability. in commercial and diplomatic relations. The government launched an independent review into the persecution of Christians and freedom of religion or belief, the Prime Minister appointed a special envoy for FoRB, the all-party parliamentary group for FoRB is the largest APPG in Westminster, and in July, the UK will be hosting the international ministerial meeting on FoRB.

These developments are so valuable because the context of religious liberty is so precarious — as Anne Applebaum recently noted in Atlantic “The bad guys win”. Since the turn of the century, a growing number of countries have seen a creeping eclipse of democracy by autocracy, such as Vladimir Putin in Russia, Recip Erdogan in Turkey, Narendra Modi in India and Xi Xinping in China. As these “strongmen” influence smaller (and often dependent) states such as Syria, North Korea, Belarus, Myanmar and Cuba to feel less obligated to adhere to international conventions or their own constitutional precepts , we can expect even the pretense of respecting human rights to continue to fade. Our international institutions are also fading. At the beginning of 2022, the United Nations Human Rights Council includes important states on the global watch list such as Libya, Cuba, Sudan, Indonesia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, India and China.

JFK was right. An attack on freedom anywhere is an attack on freedom everywhere. And an attack on freedom of religion should concern us all.