Unlike in Israel 75 percent of the world’s population lives in countries that restrict their right to religion in some way or another.
Three-quarters of the world’s population live in countries that either restrict religious freedom or have “a high level of social hostility involving religion or belief,” the United Nations special investigator on religious rights said Tuesday.
Ahmed Shaheed told the General Assembly’s human rights committee that religious intolerance is prevalent globally — and rising around the world. He said over 70 countries currently have anti-blasphemy laws that can be used to suppress dissenting views, in violation of international human rights standards.
Shaheed, a former politician and human rights expert from the Maldives, urged those countries to repeal the blasphemy laws as well as all laws that undermine the exercise of the right to freedom of religion or belief — or discriminate against that right. He urged countries to adopt and enforce “adequate criminal sanctions penalizing violent and particularly egregious discriminatory acts perpetrated by state or non-state actors against persons based on their religion or belief.”
Governments must also pay “particular attention” to uphold the obligation to protect religious minorities, he added, explaining that “increases in unlawful government restrictions against religious groups remain one of the primary and most fundamental factors resulting in higher levels of religious intolerance in any given society.”
Some forms of discrimination are direct, such as prohibiting some or all religions or beliefs, he continued. Others, however, may be indirect, such as zoning laws that prevent construction of certain houses of worship or bans on refugees or immigrants, “ostensibly for national security reasons, from countries where majority populations belong to particular faith communities.”
Freedom of Religion in Israel
The State of Israel enables full freedom of worship. Addressing a special dinner for the Christian Media Summit in Jerusalem earlier this month, Jerusalem’s Mayor Barkat noted that “in one square kilometer of Jerusalem, you will find more synagogues, churches and mosques than anywhere around the world.”
Barkat said that the holy city’s role is to “accommodate all – secular, traditional, religious, from all religions.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also addressed the summit, underscored the city’s accessibility to members of all faiths. “You are joining us as we celebrate 50 years since the Holy City was liberated and united; 50 years of religious freedom for all. You know that because you walk around, you go to the holy sites, you go to the churches, others go to the mosques, and you know this is a free city,” he declared.
“Israel is the one country in a vast region where Christians not only survive, they thrive,” the Israeli premier stressed. While Christian communities are persecuted and are diminishing throughout the region, the birth cradle of Christianity, the Christian community in Israel is growing.
By: AP and United with Israel Staff
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