• 61% of the world’s population live in countries where religious freedom is not respected; in other words, 6 out of every 10 people around the world cannot express their faith with total freedom.

    This is one of the key conclusions of the report on Religious Freedom in the World, which was officially made public today in Rome by the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation ACN International, with simultaneous worldwide launches also taking place in many other locations such as London, Paris, Santiago, Manila and New York.

    The report looks at all 196 countries of the world, examining the degree to which the basic right to religious freedom, as defined in Article 18 of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is respected with regard to all the world’s major religious faiths.

    Grave violations of religious freedom were found to occur in a total of 38 countries. In 17 of these, serious discrimination on grounds of religious faith prevails, whereas in the remaining 21 countries, there is outright persecution of religious minorities, in some cases to the point of death.

    As the report reveals, in some of the most wanting countries from the point of view of religious freedom, the situation has only deteriorated over the past two years. And on the global level in general, overall respect for religious freedom has also worsened.

    Aid to the Church in Need Malta launched the report on Saturday, 24th November 2018, at San Anton Palace. In his opening speech, the Director of ACN Malta Mr Stephen Axisa stated that as an organisation committed to helping persecuted Christians, ACN has a particular duty to uphold the basic human right of religious freedom and draw the attention of all people to the grave discrimination facing Christians in so many parts of the world.

    He disclosed that according to the report, 6 out of every 10 people around the world cannot express their faith with total freedom and this situation has deteriorated over the past two years. He stated that religious illiteracy, including within the media and the lack of political action in the West has exacerbated the problem leading to a situation where many minority faith groups suffer behind a curtain of indifference.

    In his reflection, Auxiliary Bishop Mgr Joseph Galea Curmi, on behalf of the Church in Malta expressed appreciation to Aid to the Church in Need in Malta and internationally, for their efforts to lift this curtain of indifference by raising awareness on the plight of Christians who are suffering persecution and mobilizing all forms of support on their behalf.

    “Malta is blessed that we don’t have this persecution but with the help of ACN we can see what is happening in other parts of the world and this will help us to live our faith with a wider vision. We will better understand the demands of our faith and how we should live our faith by sharing with our persecuted brothers and sisters and learning from their faith. I wish all people will support the work of ACN,” he said.

    Giving a personal account of the situation of religious freedom in Nigeria, the Keynote Speaker, Mgr Ignatius Kaigama explained that Nigeria has suffered infringements on the right to religious freedom through incidences of massive destruction to lives and property by the Boko Haram insurgents and militant Fulani herdsmen. Such incidences he said also include the abduction of school girls, the suffering of the internally displaced persons, denial of rights and privileges to Christians in some parts of the North, disallowing the teaching of Christian Religious Knowledge in some Northern States, the kidnapping of Catholic Priests and Sisters, fear and the psychological trauma induced by fanatics or militants.

    The ecclesiastical assistant of ACN Malta, Rev. Prof. Hector Scerri described the persecuted Christians as “contemporary prophets” who are always in anguish, always alone and penetrated by hurt. He said “it is our duty to listen to their cry, to support them, to acknowledge their witness which is both prophetic and Christlike”

    Citing examples in the world where religions co-exist peacefully such as Bulgaria, the President of Malta expressed conviction that it is possible tor religions to live together in harmony. She called for the promotion of religious freedom and inter-religious dialogue in all spheres of society.  

    With the launch of this report, ACN is inviting people throughout the world to stand up in defence of religious freedom, especially journalists, policy makers, academics, jurists and others seeking to assist persecuted and oppressed Christians.

    The launch was accompanied by the floodlighting in red of Auberge de Castille, Valletta and the Good Shepherd Church in Ħal Balzan to show solidarity and support for the persecuted Christians who shed their blood for the faith.