- Christians recognized as most persecuted religious group
- ECHR ruling emphasizes responsibility of states to protect the persecuted
VIENNA (18 December 2019) – On International Migrants Day we specifically remember those who are forced to flee due to religious persecution. Christians are recognized as the most persecuted religious group worldwide and often suffer under displacement when fleeing. In November, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in favour of an Afghani citizen who sought asylum in Switzerland and faced deportation back to a country where he could face death for converting to Christianity. ADF International intervened in the case of A.A. v. Switzerland.
“Nobody should be persecuted because of their faith. On International Migrants Day, we should remember those who are forced to flee their homes and leave everything behind in search of a safer life. Unfortunately, Christians from all over the world have faced such hardships as their fundamental right to freedom of religion is threatened. In A.A. v. Switzerland, ADF International’s intervention sought to highlight the dangers faced by Christians and other religious minorities in Afghanistan. Our society has a responsibility to protect those who are fleeing from torture, imprisonment, or death due to their religious beliefs. In this case, we welcome the important judgment by the European Court of Human Rights and hope it will act as a signal to all states to give safety to those who face persecution for their faith,” said Paul Coleman, Executive Director of ADF International.
Christians seeking asylum
Christians fear persecution mainly in regions such as the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia, and East Asia. For some, life has become impossible in their home countries as they face torture, imprisonment, or even death due to their religious beliefs. The case of A.A. v. Switzerland shows these dangers. The applicant would have faced severe persecution if deported back to Afghanistan. In the country, conversion from Islam to another religion is illegal “apostasy” with punishments ranging from lengthy imprisonment to death. In its ruling in November 2019, the European Court of Human Rights reemphasized the obligation states have under international law to protect those fleeing religious persecution.
Call for international action
Recent reports by various national governments highlight the intensity of global persecution. A report commissioned by the British Foreign Office, published in July, outlines the persecution of Christians across the globe. It concludes that they are the most persecuted religious group in the world and reveals an increase in the phenomenon. Similarly, the US Department of State recently hosted the second Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom. The conference highlighted the stories of those who have faced persecution. Advocates and government officials discussed goals and strategies to better protect religious minorities and those persecuted for their religion.
Earlier this year, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution creating the “International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief” which will be commemorated on 22 August each year. It is part of an increasing call for international action to counter religious persecution.