The U.S. State Department's "2013 International Religious Freedom Report" was released today, bringing with it some dire news about the state of free speech and religious expression around the globe. Capturing just how troubling the situation is, a State Department fact sheet said that 2013 brought with it "the largest displacement of members of religious communities in recent memory."
People around the world from a diverse set of faiths, including Muslim, Christian and Hindu, among others, were forced to leave their homes and — in many cases — their countries as a result of their faith.
"Communities are disappearing from their traditional and historic homes and dispersing across the geographic map," reads the report's executive summary. "In conflict zones, in particular, this mass displacement has become a pernicious norm."
But problems weren't only seen in areas where war and conflict are running rampant, as the report highlighted that a survey by the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency found last November that some Jews in countries like Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Sweden and United Kingdom felt anti-Semitism was of serious concern.
"The European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) survey of perceptions of anti-Semitism among Jews in eight member states … released in November, found that in some countries as many as 48 percent of the local Jewish population had considered emigrating because of anti-Semitism," it continued.
The problems clearly aren't geographically concentrated.
"North Korea again stood out for its absolute prohibition of religious organizations and harsh punishments for any unauthorized religious activities," it continues. "Countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran and Sudan put severe restrictions on members of religious groups that did not conform to the state-approved religion(s) while in China, Cuba, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, religious activity was only lawful if explicitly authorized by the state."
The report notes that governments around the world implemented discriminatory laws which, in turn, created other forms of repression at the hands of citizens, allowing for "broader human rights abuses."
Religious-motivated violence and discrimination, the report said, intensifies when governments fail to protect religious freedom.
Read the entire report here.