Religious Persecution

Religious persecution is the systematic mistreatment of an individual or a group of individuals as a response to their religious beliefs or affiliations or their lack thereof. The tendency of societies or groups within societies to alienate or repress different subcultures is a recurrent theme in human history. Moreover, because a person’s religion often determines his or her morality, world view, self-image, attitudes towards others, and overall personal identity to a significant extent, religious differences can be significant cultural, personal, and social factors.

Religious persecution may be triggered by religious bigotry (i.e. when members of a dominant group denigrate religions other than their own) or it may be triggered by the state when it views a particular religious group as a threat to its interests or security. At a societal level, the dehumanisation of a particular religious group may readily lead to violence or other forms of persecution. Indeed, in many countries, religious persecution has resulted in so much violence that it is considered a human rights problem.


Main article: Persecution

Religious persecution is defined as violence or discrimination against religious minorities, actions which are intended to deprive minorities of political rights and force them to assimilate, leave, or live as second-class citizens. In the aspect of a state’s policy, it may be defined as violations of freedom of thought, conscience and belief which are spread in accordance with a systematic and active state policy which encourages actions such as harassment, intimidation and the imposition of punishments in order to infringe or threaten the targeted minority’s right to life, integrity or liberty. The distinction between religious persecution and religious intolerance lies in the fact that in most cases, the latter is motivated by the sentiment of the population, which may be tolerated or encouraged by the state. The denial of people’s civil rights on the basis of their religion is most often described as religious discrimination, rather than religious persecution.

Rohingya refugees in refugee camp in Bangladesh, 2017

Rohingya refugees in refugee camp in Bangladesh, 2017

Examples of persecution include the confiscation or destruction of property, incitement of hatred, arrests, imprisonment, beatings, torture, murder, and executions. Religious persecution can be considered the opposite of freedom of religion.

Bateman has differentiated different degrees of persecution. “It must be personally costly… It must be unjust and undeserved… it must be a direct result of one’s faith.”


The following statistics from Pew Research Center show how common persecution of various religious groups is in the world:

Group Probability that a religious lives in a country
where persecution of the group occurred in 2015
Number of countries where the group
was persecuted in 2015
Number of countries where the group
was persecuted by the government in 2015
Jews 99% 74 43
Hindus 99% 18 14
Muslims 97% 125 97
Other religions 85% 50 44
Folk religions 80% 32 16
Christians 78% 128 106
Buddhists 72% 7 5
Unaffiliated 14 9



Religious cleansing” is a term that is sometimes used to refer to the removal of a population from a certain territory based on its religion. Throughout antiquity, population cleansing was largely motivated by economic and political factors, although ethnic factors occasionally played a role. During the Middle Ages, population cleansing took on a largely religious character. The religious motivation lost much of its salience early in the modern era, although until the 18th century ethnic enmity in Europe remained couched in religious terms. Richard Dawkins has argued that references to ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia and Iraq are euphemisms for what should more accurately be called religious cleansing. According to Adrian Koopman, the widespread use of the term ethnic cleansing in such cases suggests that in many situations there is confusion between ethnicity and religion.


During Nazi rule, Jews were forced to wear yellow stars which identified them as such. Jews are an ethno-religious group and Nazi persecution was based on their race

During Nazi rule, Jews were forced to wear yellow stars which identified them as such. Jews are an ethno-religious group and Nazi persecution was based on their race

Other acts of violence, such as war, torture, and ethnic cleansing not aimed at religion in particular, may nevertheless take on the qualities of religious persecution when one or more of the parties involved are characterized by religious homogeneity; an example being when conflicting populations that belong to different ethnic groups often also belong to different religions or denominations. The difference between religious and ethnic identity might sometimes be obscure; cases of genocide in the 20th century cannot be explained in full by citing religious differences. Still, cases such as the Greek genocide, the Armenian Genocide, and the Assyrian Genocide are sometimes seen as religious persecution and blur the lines between ethnic and religious violence.

Since the Early modern period, an increasing number of religious cleansings were entwined with ethnic elements. Since religion is an important or central marker of ethnic identity, some conflicts can best be described as “ethno-religious conflicts”.

Nazi antisemitism provides another example of the contentious divide between ethnic and religious persecution, because Nazi propaganda tended to construct its image of Jews as belonging to a race, it de-emphasized Jews as being defined by their religion. In keeping with what they were taught in Nazi propaganda, the perpetrators of the Holocaust made no distinction between secular Jews, atheistic Jews, orthodox Jews and Jews who had converted to Christianity. The Nazis also persecuted the Catholic Church in Germany and Poland.

Persecution for heresy and blasphemy

Main articles: Heresy and Blasphemy
See also: Christian heresy and Heresy in Orthodox Judaism

The persecution of beliefs that are deemed schismatic is one thing; the persecution of beliefs that are deemed heretical or blasphemous is another. Although a public disagreement on secondary matters might be serious enough, it has often only led to religious discrimination. A public renunciation of the core elements of a religious doctrine under the same circumstances would, on the other hand, have put one in far greater danger. While dissenters from the official Church only faced fines and imprisonment in Protestant England, six people were executed for heresy or blasphemy during the reign of Elizabeth I, and two more were executed in 1612 under James I.

Similarly, heretical sects like Cathars, Waldensians and Lollards were brutally suppressed in Western Europe, while, at the same time, Catholic Christians lived side by side with ‘schismatic’ Orthodox Christians after the East-West Schism in the borderlands of Eastern Europe.

Persecution for political reasons

Protestant Bishop John Hooper was burned at the stake by Queen Mary I of England

Protestant Bishop John Hooper was burned at the stake by Queen Mary I of England

More than 300 Roman Catholics were put to death for treason by English governments between 1535 and 1681, thus they were executed for secular rather than religious offenses. In 1570, Pope Pius V issued his papal bull Regnans in Excelsis, which absolved Catholics from their obligations to the government. This dramatically worsened the persecution of Catholics in England. English governments continued to fear the fictitious Popish Plot. The 1584 Parliament of England, declared in “An Act against Jesuits, seminary priests, and such other like disobedient persons” that the purpose of Jesuit missionaries who had come to Britain was “to stir up and move sedition, rebellion and open hostility”. Consequently, Jesuit priests like Saint John Ogilvie were hanged. This somehow contrasts with the image of the Elizabethan era as the time of William Shakespeare, but compared to the antecedent Marian Persecutions there is an important difference to consider. Mary I of England had been motivated by a religious zeal to purge heresy from her land, and during her short reign from 1553 to 1558 about 290 Protestants had been burned at the stake for heresy, whereas Elizabeth I of England “acted out of fear for the security of her realm.”

By location

The descriptive use of the term religious persecution is rather difficult. Religious persecution has occurred in different historical, geographical and social contexts since at least antiquity. Until the 18th century, some groups were nearly universally persecuted for their religious views, such as atheists, Jews and Zoroastrians.

Roman Empire

See also: Persecution of Ancient Greek religion and Persecution of pagans in the late Roman Empire

Early Christianity also came into conflict with the Roman Empire, and it may have been more threatening to the established polytheistic order than Judaism had been, because of the importance of evangelism in Christianity. Under Nero, the Jewish exemption from the requirement to participate in public cults was lifted and Rome began to actively persecute monotheists. This persecution ended in 313 AD with the Edict of Milan, and Christianity was made the official religion of the empire in 380 AD. By the eighth century Christianity had attained a clear ascendancy across Europe and neighboring regions, and a period of consolidation began which was marked by the pursuit of heretics, heathens, Jews, Muslims, and various other religious groups.

Early modern England

One period of religious persecution which has been extensively studied is early modern England, since the rejection of religious persecution, now common in the Western world, originated there. The English ‘Call for Toleration’ was a turning point in the Christian debate on persecution and toleration, and early modern England stands out to the historians as a place and time in which literally “hundreds of books and tracts were published either for or against religious toleration.”

The most ambitious chronicle of that time is W.K.Jordan’s magnum opus The Development of Religious Toleration in England, 1558-1660 (four volumes, published 1932-1940). Jordan wrote as the threat of fascism rose in Europe, and this work is seen as a defense of the fragile values of humanism and tolerance. More recent introductions to this period are Persecution and Toleration in Protestant England, 1558–1689 (2000) by John Coffey and Charitable hatred. Tolerance and intolerance in England, 1500-1700 (2006) by Alexandra Walsham. To understand why religious persecution has occurred, historians like Coffey “pay close attention to what the persecutors said they were doing.”

Ecclesiastical dissent and civil tolerance

No religion is free from internal dissent, although the degree of dissent that is tolerated within a particular religious organization can strongly vary. This degree of diversity tolerated within a particular church is described as ecclesiastical tolerance, and is one form of religious toleration. However, when people nowadays speak of religious tolerance, they most often mean civil tolerance, which refers to the degree of religious diversity that is tolerated within the state.

In the absence of civil toleration, someone who finds himself in disagreement with his congregation doesn’t have the option to leave and chose a different faith – simply because there is only one recognized faith in the country (at least officially). In modern western civil law any citizen may join and leave a religious organization at will; In western societies, this is taken for granted, but actually, this legal separation of Church and State only started to emerge a few centuries ago.

In the Christian debate on persecution and toleration, the notion of civil tolerance allowed Christian theologians to reconcile Jesus’ commandment to love one’s enemies with other parts of the New Testament that are rather strict regarding dissent within the church. Before that, theologians like Joseph Hall had reasoned from the ecclesiastical intolerance of the early Christian church in the New Testament to the civil intolerance of the Christian state.


Religious uniformity in early modern Europe

Main article: Religious uniformity

By contrast to the notion of civil tolerance, in early modern Europe the subjects were required to attend the state church; This attitude can be described as territoriality or religious uniformity, and its underlying assumption is brought to a point by a statement of the Anglican theologian Richard Hooker: “There is not any man of the Church of England but the same man is also a member of the [English] commonwealth; nor any man a member of the commonwealth, which is not also of the Church of England.”

Before a vigorous debate about religious persecution took place in England (starting in the 1640s), for centuries in Europe, religion had been tied to territory. In England there had been several Acts of Uniformity; in continental Europe the Latin phrase “cuius regio, eius religio” had been coined in the 16th century and applied as a fundament for the Peace of Augsburg (1555). It was pushed to the extreme by absolutist regimes, particularly by the French kings Louis XIV and his successors. It was under their rule that Catholicism became the sole compulsory allowed religion in France and that the huguenots had to massively leave the country. Persecution meant that the state was committed to secure religious uniformity by coercive measures, as eminently obvious in a statement of Roger L’Estrange: “That which you call persecution, I translate Uniformity”.

However, in the 17th century writers like Pierre Bayle, John Locke, Richard Overton and Roger William broke the link between territory and faith, which eventually resulted in a shift from territoriality to religious voluntarism. It was Locke who, in his Letter Concerning Toleration, defined the state in purely secular terms: “The commonwealth seems to me to be a society of men constituted only for the procuring, preserving, and advancing their own civil interests. Concerning the church, he went on: “A church, then, I take to be a voluntary society of men, joining themselves together of their own accord.”  With this treatise, John Locke laid one of the most important intellectual foundations of the separation of church and state, which ultimately led to the secular state.


The Bishop of Vladimir Feodor turned some people into slaves, others were locked in prison, cut their heads, burnt eyes, cut tongues or crucified on walls. Some heretics were executed by burning them alive. According to an inscription of Khan Mengual-Temir, Metropolitan Kiril was granted the right to heavily punish with death for blasphemy against the Orthodox Church or breach of ecclesiastical privileges. He advised all means of destruction to be used against heretics, but without bloodshed, in the name of ‘saving souls’. Heretics were drowned. Novgorod Bishop Gennady Gonzov turned to Tsar Ivan III requesting the death of heretics. Gennady admired the Spanish inquisitors, especially his contemporary Torquemada, who for 15 years of inquisition activity burned and punished thousands of people. As in Rome, persecuted fled to depopulated areas. The most terrible punishment was considered an underground pit, where rats lived. Some people had been imprisoned and tied to the wall there, and untied after their death. Old Believers were persecuted and executed, the order was that even those renouncing completely their beliefs and baptized in the state Church to be lynched without mercy. The writer Lomonosov opposed the religious teachings and by his initiative a scientific book against them was published. The book was destroyed, the Russian synod insisted Lomonosov’s works to be burned and requested his punishment.

…were cutting heads, hanging, some by the neck, some by the foot, many of them were stabbed with sharp sticks and impaled on hooks. This included the tethering to a ponytail, drowning and freezing people alive in lakes. The winners did not spare even the sick and the elderly, taking them out of the monastery and throwing them mercilessly in icy ‘vises’. The words step back, the pen does not move, in eternal darkness the ancient Solovetsky monastery is going. Of the more than 500 people, only a few managed to avoid the terrible court.


Although his book was written before the September 11 attacks, John Coffey explicitly compares the English fear of the Popish Plot to Islamophobia in the contemporary Western world. Among the Muslims imprisoned in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp there also were Mehdi Ghezali and Murat Kurnaz who could not have been found to have any connections with terrorism, but had traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan because of their religious interests.

The United States submits an annual report on religious freedom and persecution to the Congress containing data it has collected from U.S. embassies around the world in collaboration with the Office of International Religious Freedom and other relevant U.S. government and non-governmental institutions. The data is available to the public. The 2018 study details, country by country, the violations of religious freedom taking place in approximately 75% of the 195 countries in the world. Between 2007 and 2017, the PEW organization found that “Christians experienced harassment by governments or social groups in the largest number of countries”–144 countries–but that it is almost equal to the number of countries (142) in which Muslims experience harassment.

There are no religious groups free of harassment somewhere in the contemporary world. Klaus Wetzel, an expert on religious persecution for the German Bundestag, the House of Lords, the US House of Representatives, the European Parliament, and the International Institute for Religious Freedom, explains that “In around a quarter of all countries in the world, the restrictions imposed by governments, or hostilities towards one or more religious groups, are high or very high. Some of the most populous countries in the world belong to this group, such as China, India, Indonesia and Pakistan. Therefore, around three quarters of the world’s population live in them.”

At the symposium on law and religion in 2014, Michelle Mack said: “Despite what appears to be a near-universal expression of commitment to religious human rights, the frequency-and severity-of religious persecution worldwide is staggering. Although it is impossible to determine with certainty the exact numbers of people persecuted for their faith or religious affiliation, it is unquestioned that “violations of freedom of religion and belief, including acts of severe persecution, occur with fearful frequency.” She quotes Irwin Colter, human rights advocate and author as saying “[F]reedom of religion remains the most persistently violated human right in the annals of the species.”

Despite the ubiquitous nature of religious persecution, the traditional human rights community typically chooses to emphasize “more tangible encroachments on human dignity,” such as violations based on race, gender, and class using national, ethnic, and linguistic groupings instead.

By religion

Persecutions of atheists

Main article: Discrimination against atheists

Used before the 18th century as an insult, atheism was punishable by death in ancient Greece and ancient Israel, as well as in the Christian and Muslim worlds during the Middle Ages. Today, atheism is punishable by death in 13 countries (Afghanistan, Iran, Malaysia, the Maldives, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen), all of them Muslim, while “the overwhelming majority” of the 192 United Nations member countries “at best discriminate against citizens who have no belief in a god and at worst they can jail them for offences which are dubbed blasphemy”.

State atheism

Main article: State atheism

State atheism has been defined by David Kowalewski as the official “promotion of atheism” by a government, typically by the active suppression of religious freedom and practice. It is a misnomer which is used in reference to a government’s anti-clericalism, its opposition to religious institutional power and influence, whether it is real or alleged, in all aspects of public and political life, including the involvement of religion in the everyday life of the citizen.

State atheism was first practised for a brief period in Revolutionary France and later it was practiced in Revolutionary Mexico and Communist states. The Soviet Union had a long history of state atheism, in which social success largely required individuals to profess atheism, stay away from churches and even vandalize them; this attitude was especially militant during the middle Stalinist era from 1929–1939. The Soviet Union attempted to suppress religion over wide areas of its influence, including places like central Asia, and the post-World War II Eastern bloc. One state within that bloc, the Socialist People’s Republic of Albania under Enver Hoxha, went so far as to officially ban all religious practices.

Persecution of Buddhists

Main articles: Persecution of Buddhists

Persecution of Buddhists was a widespread phenomenon throughout the history of Buddhism lasting to this day, beginning as early as the 3rd century AD by the Zoroastrian Sassanid Empire. Anti-Buddhist sentiments in Imperial China between the 5th and 10th century led to the Four Buddhist Persecutions in China of which the Great Anti-Buddhist Persecution of 845 was probably the most severe. In the 20th century Buddhists were persecuted by Asian communist states and parties, Imperial Japan and by the Kuomintang among others.

Persecution of Christians

Main articles: Persecution of Christians and History of Christian thought on persecution and tolerance

The St. Bartholomew's Day massacre of French Protestants in 1572

The St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre of French Protestants in 1572

The persecution of Christians is for the most part, historical. Even from the beginnings of the religion as a movement within Judaism, Early Christians were persecuted for their faith at the hands of both Jews and the Roman Empire, which controlled much of the areas where Christianity was first distributed. This continued from the first century until the early fourth, when the religion was legalised by the Edict of Milan, eventually becoming the State church of the Roman Empire.

Today, Christians are persecuted in Iran for proselytising. Proselytising is illegal in Iran.

In December of 2016, the Center for the Study of Global Christianity (CSGC) at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts, published a statement that “between 2005 and 2015 there were 900,000 Christian martyrs worldwide — an average of 90,000 per year.” By May of 2013, the Vatican had picked up that number and promulgated it. It gained international attention. However, the BBC has reported that others such as Open Doors and the International Society for Human Rights have disputed its accuracy. Open Doors International Director of Research and Strategy, Ron Boyd McMillan, says the number of Christians killed “for faith-related reasons between 1 November 2015 and 31 October 2016 was less than two per cent of CSGC’s figure: 1,207.” McMillan added: “Every year, since we started the World Watch List in 1991, the number of Christians killed for their faith has been in the 100s or 1000s, never in the 100,000s.”

Gina Zurlo, the CSGC’s assistant director, explained that the Massachusetts-based centre would count anyone who “died prematurely, acting out their faith”, including Christians killed in war. Their data assumed that most Christians would not wish to take part in warfare, so any Christians who died would have been targeted for their faith. Ms Zurlo admitted that of the 90,000 cited, two-thirds had died in tribal conflicts, and nearly half were victims of the civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Klaus Wetzel, an internationally recognized expert on religious persecution, points out a contradiction between the definition used by Gordon-Conwell defining Christian martyrdom in the widest possible sense, and the more sociological and political definition Wetzel uses: ‘those who are killed, who would not have been killed, if they had not been Christians.’ The International Institute for Religious Freedom (IIRF) and Open Doors use a definition similar to Wetzel’s, only counting cases where the perpetrators killed Christians because they were Christians and anti-Christian motives can be verified. Open Doors documents cases based on direct evidence wherever this is available, but it also makes conservative estimates based on indirect evidence. This approach dramatically lowers the numerical count.

Wetzel also explained that numbers are affected by several important factors: three quarters of the world’s population live in the one-quarter of the countries where religious restrictions are high or very high. Plus, Christians are the largest of the religious groups, with 2.3 billion members, and so it would be expected that they would also have the largest numbers of persecutions.

The United States submits an annual report on religious freedom and persecution to the Congress. Many human rights and religious freedom organizations make use of the State Department data, but also gather and compare their own. The Internationale Gesellschaft für Menschenrechte–the International Society for Human Rights–in Frankfurt, Germany is a non-governmental organization with 30,000 members from 38 countries who monitor human rights. In September 2009, then chairman Martin Lessenthin, issued a report estimating that 80% of acts of religious persecution around the world are aimed at Christians. Pew reports that Christians make up 31.2% of the world’s population.

A report released by the UK’s Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, prepared by the Bishop of Truro in July 2019, has the number of countries where Christians suffer because of their faith rising from 125 in 2015 to 144 a year later. The review says that, in some regions, the level and nature of persecution, is coming close to meeting the International definition of genocide adopted by the United Nations. Between 2007 and 2017, the PEW organization also found that “Christians experienced harassment by governments or social groups in the largest number of countries”–144 countries. After studying governmental restrictions on religion from “laws, policies and actions by state officials” along with social hostilities, PEW has published a caution concerning the interpretation of these numbers: “The Center’s recent report … does not attempt to estimate the number of victims in each country… it does not speak to the intensity of harassment…” France, who restricts the wearing of the hijab, is counted as a persecuting country along with Nigeria and Pakistan where, according to the Global Security organization, Christians have been killed for their faith.

The International Institute for Religious Freedom (IIRF) estimated the number of Christians killed for their beliefs in 2014 at 8,000 to 9,000. In the same year, Open Doors only recorded verifiable cases which came to 7,106. In 2015, Open Doors recorded the number of verified deaths from persecution had dropped to 4,028, and for 2016, the number of deaths was one third of that number: 1207. For the 12-month period beginning in 2016 and ending October 2017, Open Doors recorded 3,066 deaths from religious persecution. Open Doors says that, while numbers fluctuate every year, they estimate 11 Christians are currently dying for their faith somewhere in the world every day.

Numbers of martyrs are difficult to identify accurately since religious persecution is often part of a larger conflict. This complicates identifying the act as religious or political. For example, the U.S. Department of State identified 1.4 million Christians in Iraq in 1991 when the Gulf War began. (Christianity in Iran dates from the Apostolic era in what was then Persia.) By 2010, the number of Christians dropped to 700,000 and it is currently estimated there are between 450,000 and 200,000 Christians left in Iraq. During that period, actions against Christians included the burning and bombing of churches, the bombing of Christian owned businesses and homes, kidnapping, murder, demands for protection money, and anti-Christian rhetoric in the media with those responsible saying they wanted to rid the country of its Christians. Should they be counted as victims of war or persecution? There is no means by which it is possible to definitively answer this question as there is no single established standard applying to all religions equally. Generally all political actions are excluded from being counted as religious persecution.

Persecution of Falun Gong

Main articles: Persecution of Falun Gong610 Office, and Organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners in China<

The persecution of the Falun Gong spiritual practice began with campaigns initiated in 1999 by the Chinese Communist Party to eliminate Falun Gong in China. It is characterised by multifaceted propaganda campaign, a program of enforced ideological conversion and re-education, and a variety of extralegal coercive measures such as arbitrary arrests, forced labor, and physical torture, sometimes resulting in death.

There have being reports of Organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners in China. Several researchers—most notably Canadian human rights lawyer David Matas, former parliamentarian David Kilgour, and investigative journalist Ethan Gutmann—estimate that tens of thousands of Falun Gong prisoners of conscience have been killed to supply a lucrative trade in human organs and cadavers.

Persecution of Hindus

Main articles: Persecution of Hindus and Anti-Hinduism

Hindus have been one of the targeted and persecuted minorities in Pakistan. Militancy and sectarianism has been rising in Pakistan since the 1990s, and the religious minorities have “borne the brunt of the Islamist’s ferocity” suffering “greater persecution than in any earlier decade”, states Farahnaz Ispahani – a Public Policy Scholar at the Wilson Center. This has led to attacks and forced conversion of Hindus, and other minorities such as Christians. According to Tetsuya Nakatani – a Japanese scholar of Cultural Anthropology specializing in South Asia refugee history, after the mass exodus of Hindu, Sikh and other non-Muslim refugees during the 1947 partition of British India, there were several waves of Hindu refugees arrival into India from its neighbors. The fearful and persecuted refugee movements were often after various religious riots between 1949 and 1971 that targeted non-Muslims within West Pakistan or East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). The status of these persecuted Hindu refugees in India has remained in a political limbo.

Similar concerns about religious persecution of Hindu and other minorities in Bangladesh have also been expressed. The USCIRF notes hundreds of cases of “killings, attempted killings, death threats, assaults, rapes, kidnappings, and attacks on homes, businesses, and places of worship” on religious minorities in 2017. Since the 1990s, Hindus have been a persecuted minority in Afghanistan, and a subject of “intense hate” with the rise of religious fundamentalism in Afghanistan. Their “targeted persecution” triggered an exodus and forced them to seek asylum. The persecuted Hindus have remained stateless and without citizenship rights in India, since it has historically lacked any refugee law or uniform policy for persecuted refugees, state Ashish Bose and Hafizullah Emadi.

The Bangladesh Liberation War (1971) resulted in one of the largest genocides of the 20th century. While estimates of the number of casualties was 3,000,000, it is reasonably certain that Hindus bore a disproportionate brunt of the Pakistan Army’s onslaught against the Bengali population of what was East Pakistan. An article in Time magazine dated 2 August 1971, stated “the Hindus, who account for three-fourths of the refugees and a majority of the dead, have borne the brunt of the Muslim military hatred.” Senator Edward Kennedy wrote in a report that was part of United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations testimony dated 1 November 1971, “Hardest hit have been members of the Hindu community who have been robbed of their lands and shops, systematically slaughtered, and in some places, painted with yellow patches marked “H”. All of this has been officially sanctioned, ordered and implemented under martial law from Islamabad”. In the same report, Senator Kennedy reported that 80% of the refugees in India were Hindus and according to numerous international relief agencies such as UNESCO and World Health Organization the number of East Pakistani refugees at their peak in India was close to 10 million. Given that the Hindu population in East Pakistan was around 11 million in 1971, this suggests that up to 8 million, or more than 70% of the Hindu population had fled the country.The Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Sydney Schanberg covered the start of the war and wrote extensively on the suffering of the East Bengalis, including the Hindus both during and after the conflict. In a syndicated column “The Pakistani Slaughter That Nixon Ignored”, he wrote about his return to liberated Bangladesh in 1972. “Other reminders were the yellow “H”s the Pakistanis had painted on the homes of Hindus, particular targets of the Muslim army” (by “Muslim army”, meaning the Pakistan Army, which had targeted Bengali Muslims as well), (Newsday, 29 April 1994).

Hindus constitute approximately 0.5% of the total population of the United States. Hindus in the US enjoy both de jure and de facto legal equality. However, a series of attacks were made on people Indian origin by a street gang called the “Dotbusters” in New Jersey in 1987, the dot signifying the Bindi dot sticker worn on the forehead by Indian women. The lackadaisical attitude of the local police prompted the South Asian community to arrange small groups all across the state to fight back against the street gang. The perpetrators have been put to trial. On 2 January 2012, a Hindu worship center in New York City was firebombed. The Dotbusters were primarily based in New York and New Jersey and committed most of their crimes in Jersey City. A number of perpetrators have been brought to trial for these assaults. Although tougher anti-hate crime laws were passed by the New Jersey legislature in 1990, the attacks continued, with 58 cases of hate crimes against Indians in New Jersey reported in 1991.

In Bangladesh, on 28 February 2013, the International Crimes Tribunal sentenced Delwar Hossain Sayeedi, the Vice President of the Jamaat-e-Islami to death for the war crimes committed during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War. Following the sentence, the Hindus were attacked in different parts of the country. Hindu properties were looted, Hindu houses were burnt into ashes and Hindu temples were desecrated and set on fire.

Persecutions of Jews

Main articles: Persecution of JewsReligious antisemitismAntisemitism in ChristianityMartin Luther and the JewsAntisemitism in Islam, and Martyrdom in Judaism

A major component of Jewish history, persecutions have been committed by Seleucids, ancient Greeks, ancient Romans, Christians (Catholics, Orthodox and Protestant), Muslims, Nazis, etc. Some of the most important events which constitute this history include the 1066 Granada massacre, the Rhineland massacres (by Catholics but against papal orders, see also : Sicut Judaeis), the Alhambra Decree after the Reconquista and the establishment of the Spanish Inquisition, the publication of On the Jews and Their Lies by Martin Luther which furthered Protestant anti-Judaism and was later used to strengthen German antisemitism and justify pogroms and the Holocaust.

Persecution of Samaritans

The Samaritan Temple at Mount Gerizim was destroyed by John Hyrcanus in about 128 BC, partly because it was attracting some northern Jews as a place of worship. In 107 BC, Hyrcanus destroyed Schechem. In the seventeenth century, Muslims from Nablus forced some Samaritans to convert to Islam and forbade access to Mount Gerizim.

Persecution of Muslims

Main article: Persecution of Muslims
See also: Persecution of minority Muslim groups

Persecution of Muslims is the religious persecution that is inflicted upon followers of the Islamic faith. In the early days of Islam at Mecca, the new Muslims were often subjected to abuse and persecution by the pagan Meccans (often called Mushrikin: the unbelievers or polytheists).

Muslims have been targeted for persecution ever since the emergence of Islam, sometimes to the point of being martyred for their faith.

In the 20th century, Muslims were persecuted by various governments including those of Myanmar, France, Italy, China, and many more.

Persecution of minorities in Islamic lands

Victims of Muslim persecution include Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, Hindus, Buddhists, Bahá’ís, Serers and Atheists. Several Muslim groups have been persecuted by fellow Muslims including Shia, Ahmadis, Sufi, Alevis and Salafis.

Persecutions of Sikhs

See also: Category:Massacres of SikhsSikh holocaust of 1746Sikh holocaust of 1762, and 1984 anti-Sikh riots

According to Ashish Bose – a Population Research scholar, Sikhs and Hindus were well integrated in Afghanistan till the Soviet invasion when their economic condition worsened. Thereafter, they became a subject of “intense hate” with the rise of religious fundamentalism in Afghanistan. Their “targeted persecution” triggered an exodus and forced them to seek asylum. Many of them started arriving in and after 1992 as refugees in India, with some seeking asylum in the United Kingdom and other western countries. Unlike the arrivals in the West, the persecuted Sikh refugees who arrived in India have remained stateless and lived as refugees because India has historically lacked any refugee law or uniform policy for persecuted refugees, state Ashish Bose and Hafizullah Emadi.

The 1984 anti-Sikhs riots were a series of pogroms directed against Sikhs in India, by anti-Sikh mobs, in response to the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. There were more than 8,000 deaths, including 3,000 in Delhi. In June 1984, during Operation Blue Star, Indira Gandhi ordered the Indian Army to attack the Golden Temple and eliminate any insurgents, as it had been occupied by Sikh separatists who were stockpiling weapons. Later operations by Indian paramilitary forces were initiated to clear the separatists from the countryside of Punjab state.

The violence in Delhi was triggered by the assassination of Indira Gandhi, India’s prime minister, on 31 October 1984, by two of her Sikh bodyguards in response to her actions authorising the military operation. After the assassination following Operation Blue Star, many Indian National Congress workers including Jagdish Tytler, Sajjan Kumar and Kamal Nath were accused of inciting and participating in riots targeting the Sikh population of the capital. The Indian government reported 2,700 deaths in the ensuing chaos. In the aftermath of the riots, the Indian government reported 20,000 had fled the city, however the People’s Union for Civil Liberties reported “at least” 1,000 displaced persons. The most affected regions were the Sikh neighbourhoods in Delhi. The Central Bureau of Investigation, the main Indian investigating agency, is of the opinion that the acts of violence were organized with the support from the then Delhi police officials and the central government headed by Indira Gandhi’s son, Rajiv Gandhi. Rajiv Gandhi was sworn in as Prime Minister after his mother’s death and, when asked about the riots, said “when a big tree falls (Mrs. Gandhi’s death), the earth shakes (occurrence of riots)” thus trying to justify communal strife.

There are allegations that the Indian National Congress government at that time destroyed evidence and shielded the guilty. The Asian Age front-page story called the government actions “the Mother of all Cover-ups” There are allegations that the violence was led and often perpetrated by Indian National Congress activists and sympathisers during the riots. The government, then led by the Congress, was widely criticised for doing very little at the time, possibly acting as a conspirator. The conspiracy theory is supported by the fact that voting lists were used to identify Sikh families. Despite their communal conflict and riots record, the Indian National Congress claims to be a secular party.

Persecution of Serers

Main articles: Serer religion and Serer history

The persecution of the Serer people of Senegal, Gambia and Mauritania is multifaceted, and it includes both religious and ethnic elements. Religious and ethnic persecution of the Serer people dates back to the 11th century when King War Jabi usurped the throne of Tekrur (part of present-day Senegal) in 1030, and by 1035, introduced Sharia law and forced his subjects to submit to Islam. With the assistance of his son (Leb), their Almoravid allies and other African ethnic groups who have embraced Islam, the Muslim coalition army launched jihads against the Serer people of Tekrur who refused to abandon Serer religion in favour of Islam. The number of Serer deaths are unknown, but it triggered the exodus of the Serers of Tekrur to the south following their defeat, where they were granted asylum by the lamanes. Persecution of the Serer people continued from the medieval era to the 19th century, resulting in the Battle of Fandane-Thiouthioune. From the 20th to the 21st centuries, persecution of the Serers is less obvious, nevertheless, they are the object of scorn and prejudice.

Persecution of Dogons

Main articles: Dogon people and Dogon religion

For almost 1000 years, the Dogon people, an ancient tribe of Mali had faced religious and ethnic persecution—through jihads by dominant Muslim communities. These jihadic expeditions were to forced the Dogon to abandon their traditional religious beliefs for Islam. Such jihads caused the Dogon to abandon their original villages and moved up to the cliffs of Bandiagara for better defense and to escape persecution—often building their dwellings in little nooks and crannies. In the early era of French colonialism in Mali, the French authorities appointed Muslim relatives of El Hadj Umar Tall as chiefs of the Bandiagara—despite the fact that the area has been a Dogon area for centutries.

In 1864, Tidiani Tall, nephew and successor of the 19th century Senegambian jihadist and Muslim leader—El Hadj Umar Tall, chose Bandiagara as the capital of the Toucouleur Empire thereby exacerbating the inter-religious and inter-ethnic conflict. In recent years, the Dogon accused the Fulanis of supporting and sheltering Islamic terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda in Dogon country, leading to the creation of the Dogon militia Dan Na Ambassagou in 2016—whose aim is to defend the Dogon from systematic attacks. That resulted in the Ogossagou massacre of Fulanis in March 2019, and a Fula retaliation with the Sobane Da massacre in June of that year. In the wake of the Ogossagou massacre, the President of Mali, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta and his government ordered the dissolution of Dan Na Ambassagou—whom they hold partly responsible for the attacks. The Dogon militia group denied any involvement in the massacre and rejected calls to disband.

See also

Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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