Libertad religiosa

This country has a poor record of protecting its religious minorities, but we outdo ourselves when it comes to Ahmadis. Members of the sect insist on calling themselves Muslims, and we mainstream Muslims insist on treating them like the worst kind of heretics.

The day I wrote this piece, a small headline in a newspaper informed me that an Ahmadi lawyer, his wife and two-year-old child had been shot dead by gunmen at home, for being Ahmadis. Killings like this have happened so many times that the story wasn’t even the main news. On May 28, 2010, some 90 Ahmadis were killed during attacks on two mosques in Lahore.…  Seguir leyendo »

Two years ago, in a village just north of the town of Sittwe in western Myanmar, I met a young man who spoke of a friendship with a Muslim boy that was no longer. Over several days in June 2012, that village and others nearby in Rakhine State had served as a wellspring for mobs of Buddhists who, armed with sticks, machetes, and cans of gasoline, laid waste to a predominantly Muslim neighborhood in the center of Sittwe.

The young man, in his mid-twenties when we met, had been away when the attack happened. But he knew many of his neighbors had boarded the buses that shuttled the mobs into Sittwe, where they razed Muslim homes and sent thousands of Rohingya Muslims fleeing to displacement camps, and he sympathized with their decision to do so.…  Seguir leyendo »

Among Westerners, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is often mentioned as a paragon of liberty, in the same breath as Mandela and Gandhi, thanks to her decades-long campaign against Myanmar’s kleptocratic military junta. But to the Rohingya, the Muslim minority now fleeing Myanmar (formerly Burma) by the tens of thousands, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and the country’s political leader is the embodiment of evil.

Abdul Kalam is one of the Rohingya. A 33-year-old farmer, he was shot in the leg on Aug. 27 by Burmese soldiers as he fled his home in the coastal village of Maungdaw with his wife, children and neighbors.…  Seguir leyendo »

The conversion of Muslims to liberalism, secularism or atheism has become something of a meme in the West, with arguments raging among scholars, in the press and on social media about the possibility of Islam’s undergoing a “reformation” or becoming “modern,” for which the history of Christianity is supposed to provide a universal blueprint.

It is the almost religious tenor of such transformations that justifies the term “conversion” for them. The single-minded adoption of such profane identities may even be more theological than Muslim conversions to Christianity and other faiths, suggesting that they have now replaced churches and temples in representing religious forms of belief.…  Seguir leyendo »

Rizieq Shihab may be the most controversial public figure in Indonesia today. Admired by many, reviled by others, the Great Imam of a leading hardline Muslim organization is wanted for pornography.

Mr. Rizieq heads an organization no less controversial than he: the Islamic Defenders Front (in Bahasa, Front Pembela Islam, or F.P.I.), which is best known for promoting the application of Shariah throughout Indonesia, sometimes with hate speech. He rides around in a Jeep Rubicon, wearing all-white robes, his left hand on a microphone, his right index finger pointing to the sky. He sermonizes in a deep, strident voice and leads demonstrations, often violent, against bars and clubs and other places he calls “immoral.”

Early this year, he also led massive protests against the governor of Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, commonly known as Ahok, claiming, among other things, that non-Muslims can’t lead Muslims.…  Seguir leyendo »

In 2012 I was arrested for the first time. I was 54 years old — a mother, an executive and a leader of my community. My crime? Praying while wearing a tallit, a Jewish prayer shawl, at the Western Wall. My father, an immigrant to Israel of German descent, never got a parking ticket. He would have rolled in his grave if he knew his daughter was being cuffed and fingerprinted by the Israeli police.

In the years since, I have been arrested on four other occasions for the same crime. So have my friends — other members of Women of the Wall, the feminist organization I lead — which for the past 28 years has defied fundamentalist religious decree by wearing prayer shawls and reading the Torah, rituals traditionally restricted to men, at the Western Wall at the beginning of every Jewish month.…  Seguir leyendo »

Más de 50 millones de personas en el mundo son perseguidas por sus creencias, lo que iguala el número de refugiados de toda la Segunda Guerra Mundial. Esta es la principal conclusión de un Informe Internacional sobre libertad religiosa, presentado recientemente (Fundación Ayuda a la Iglesia que Sufre, julio 2016) en la Universidad colombiana de La Sabana. Tras un ligero repunte a la baja -indica el Pew Forum en sus informes de abril de 2017- las restricciones impuestas a la libertad religiosa en muchos países parecen incrementarse.

El cristianismo, la religión con más seguidores del mundo es, paradójicamente, una de las más perseguidas.…  Seguir leyendo »

“At this rate Copts will be extinct in 100 years. They will die, leave, convert or get killed,” a friend wrote on Facebook as news broke of the latest bloody attack on Egypt’s Coptic Christians. Less than two months ago, while attending church in Cairo on Palm Sunday, my friend told me she’d mused to herself that it was a blessing her daughter wasn’t with her: If there was a bombing, at least her child would survive. Forty-five Copts were murdered that day by the Islamic State in churches in Alexandria and Tanta. Such are the thoughts of Coptic parents in Egypt these days.…  Seguir leyendo »

When Pope Francis visited Egypt last month, he called on the leaders of the Muslim world “to unmask the violence that masquerades as purported sanctity.” This was timely: Just a few weeks before, on Palm Sunday, Egypt’s Coptic Christian community had been viciously hit by suicide bombers enlisted by the so-called Islamic State. That bloody episode was just one of many instances of violence and harassment that Middle Eastern Christians have faced recently. The latest came on Friday, when gunmen attacked a convoy of Copts in Upper Egypt, leaving at least 26 people dead.

The wave of persecution is so severe that some fear it may bring about the end of Christianity in the region where it was born two millenniums ago.…  Seguir leyendo »

The reports are greatly exaggerated: Liberal, multicultural democracy in Indonesia isn’t dead yet.

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who is commonly called “Ahok,” recently lost the gubernatorial election in Jakarta, the capital, after his rivals waged an ugly campaign against his ethnicity and his religion: Indonesia is a majority-Muslim country, and Ahok is ethnic Chinese and Christian. Then this week he was handed an especially harsh prison sentence for a dubious charge of blasphemy.

Ahok’s loss at the polls came as a surprise. Jakarta’s governor since 2014, he was well known and well liked for his administration’s efforts to fix the city’s failing infrastructure, among other things.…  Seguir leyendo »

Egipto fue la cuna de la antigua civilización egipcia, que junto con la mesopotámica fue el origen de la historia de la humanidad. Egipto posee hoy una población cercana a los ochenta millones de habitantes, conformando una sociedad multiétnica, multicultural y multirreligiosa. El grupo étnico más importante es el árabe (88 por ciento), seguido por coptos (10), beréberes, nubios, beduinos y beja (2). La religión predominante es el islam suní (90 por ciento), y los cristianos coptos tomados en conjunto –ortodoxos, católicos y otros (10 por ciento)– son el grupo más numeroso después de los islámicos (cerca de 8.000.000 habitantes).

Los cristianos coptos son fruto de las predicaciones de san Marcos, el apóstol de Jesús, que llegó a Alejandría entre los años 40 y 49 y donde encontró el martirio el 24 de abril del año 68.…  Seguir leyendo »

Vivimos tiempos en que se predica la tolerancia hacia cualquier doctrina porque el relativismo imperante convierte a todas en equivalentes, pero la virtud de la tolerancia consiste en que, conociendo la verdad, se respeta a la persona que vive o sostiene el error, no por el propio error sino por la persona que lo padece. La tolerancia siempre se dirige a las personas, nunca a los conceptos.

A lo largo de la historia las ideas de tolerancia e intolerancia han estado claramente definidas y los actos respondían a ese conocimiento: durante la Edad Media española, los monarcas, acendrados cristianos, fueron los casi únicos defensores del pueblo hebreo, fueron tolerantes con ellos no con su doctrina hasta que en aras de la unidad exigida por el Estado recién nacido, Fernando e Isabel –que se habían apoyado en numerosos personajes conversos– mudaron a intolerantes y decretaron la expulsión de los judíos, y fueron intolerantes con las personas.…  Seguir leyendo »

How bad is religious persecution in China?

This is a question I’ve thought a lot about over the past few years. Since 2010 I’ve been working on a project documenting a religious revival in China, and seen new churches, temples, and mosques open each year, attracting millions of new worshipers.

But I’ve also seen how religion is tightly proscribed.

Only five religious groups are allowed to exist in China: Buddhism, Daoism, Islam, Protestantism and Catholicism. The government controls the appointment of major religious figures, and decides where places of worship can be built. It tries to influence theology and limits contacts overseas.…  Seguir leyendo »

Religious differences run deep in our pluralistic world. It may come as no surprise that such disagreements sometimes end up in violence.

Yet that rarely is the case in what might be called Christendom. Indeed, in large part there is little discrimination let alone persecution against spiritual minorities in majority Christian nations. The exceptions tend to be countries that suffered under communism or other authoritarian forms of rule.

In contrast, brutal mistreatment of religious minorities of all faiths is the norm in majority Muslim countries. The degree of harm varies—Christians live better in the small Gulf States than in Saudi Arabia, for instance, where not a single church is allowed to exist.…  Seguir leyendo »

I walked into the Ankara airport on Dec. 20, after a long day of eye-opening meetings, to the news on CNN International — the Russian ambassador to Turkey had just been shot. Our U.S. ambassador to Turkey, John Bass, a career diplomat who expertly navigated our previous 24 hours of intensive meetings, was standing next to me. He calmly pulled out his cellphone and started making calls.

This attack was shocking, but it represents a sad, new normal for Turkey. Days before I arrived, a car bomb exploded near a bus in Kayseri, Turkey, killing 13 soldiers and wounding 55 people.…  Seguir leyendo »

Just days before the November 2015 general election, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was asked how she would remedy the long-running repression of the Rohingya, a Muslim minority, if her party came to power. She replied: “There’s a Burmese saying: You have to make big problems small and small problems disappear.”

Less than a year after the National League for Democracy’s sweeping victory, the big Rohingya problem had only gotten bigger. Violence broke out in the western state of Rakhine, where most Rohingya live, and Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, who was already being lambasted for seeming indifferent to their hardships, is now accused of silently standing by outright abuses.…  Seguir leyendo »

De nouvelles explosions de violence ont remis sur le devant de la scène la question des Rohingya de Birmanie. La cause paraît entendue : une minorité ethnique musulmane non reconnue par son Etat, contrainte au statut d’apatride, et effroyablement maltraitée – le terme de génocide est de plus en plus souvent agité par les ONG et médias occidentaux aussi bien que dans le monde musulman. Le nouveau pouvoir birman, pourtant animé par le Prix Nobel de la paix Aung San Suu Kyi, accomplirait là par son inaction une véritable trahison de ses idéaux démocratiques.

Que les musulmans de Birmanie subissent depuis des années de graves persécutions ne fait aucun doute.…  Seguir leyendo »

Algunos episodios judiciales recientes nos han permitido ver tanto la capacidad de unos para perdonar las ofensas sufridas como la de otros para pedir perdón por las cometidas. La absolución final de Rita Maestre puede alegrarnos sea cual fuera nuestra opinión sobre la gravedad de los hechos y a pesar de nuestra inmensa preocupación por su significado profundo, que, claramente, va más allá de la conducta de una joven en una circunstancia muy concreta de edad y de ambiente ideológico. La petición de disculpas y la aceptación de las mismas por los más altos representantes de quienes podían sentirse directamente agredidos por aquellos hechos, deberían ser suficientes para todos.…  Seguir leyendo »

Two sets of high-definition images of Myanmar taken from outer space: both are shot in the morning, both show the same villages populated by Rohingya Muslims of Rakhine state. The first set, collected from 2014, displays a small collection of homes where the virtually stateless minority has settled. The buildings, lying between trees and set back from dirt roads, number more than 100. In the second set of images, taken in the past two months, the homes have vanished, and all that remains is square patches of burnt earth.

Provided by Human Rights Watch, the images reveal 430 buildings that have been destroyed in three different villages, and support the claim from a United Nations official that Myanmar is seeking the “ethnic cleansing of the Muslim Rohingya” from its territory.…  Seguir leyendo »

Sajjad and Marwa are in love. It’s obvious from the moment you meet them.

Sitting close together on the sofa in my office in Basra, Iraq, Marwa cannot stop talking about how happy she is; Sajjad just gazes adoringly into his new wife’s eyes.

Like millions of other couples around the world, they are both enjoying those first few precious months of married life.

For this couple, things could have been very different. After they became friends and started going out together, they realized they had a very big problem. Sajjad is a Shiite Muslim; Marwad is a Sunni.

In this part of the world, this was a relationship that would normally have been doomed to failure.…  Seguir leyendo »