(JNS.org) The U.S. State Department issued a new report on Monday highlighting the dire state of religious freedom around the world, with particular emphases on the plight of Middle East Christians as well as the rise of anti-Semitism across Europe.
“In 2013, the world witnessed the largest displacement of religious communities in recent memory. In almost every corner of the globe, millions of Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and others representing a range of faiths were forced from their homes on account of their religious beliefs,” the International Religious Freedom Report for 2013 stated.
In particular, the report said that due to persecution, Christianity in Syria and in the rest of the Middle East was quickly becoming “a shadow of its former self.”
“After three years of civil war, hundreds of thousands fled the country desperate to escape the ongoing violence perpetrated by the government and extremist groups alike,” said the report.
The report said that in Homs, Syria, the Christian population dwindled from more than 160,000 prior to the Syrian civil war to as few as 1,000 today. Additionally, the report criticized other Middle East countries like Egypt, Iraq, Iran, and Saudi Arabia for their persecution of religious minorities, including Christians, Shia Muslims, and other faiths.
Recently in Iraq, jihadists with the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) forced tens of thousands of Christians in Mosul to convert, pay a tax, flee or face death.
The report also noted the rising tide of anti-Semitism across Europe, citing that as many as 48 percent of local Jewish populations have considered leaving their homes.
“Throughout Europe, the historical stain of anti-Semitism continued to be a fact of life on Internet fora, in soccer stadiums, and through Nazi-like salutes, leading many individuals who are Jewish to conceal their religious identity,” the report said.