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UN day for victims of religious violence: A welcome step for religious liberty and harmony

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Nearly 74 years after it was founded, the United Nations has finally adopted an international day to acknowledge what is perhaps the biggest threat to peace and freedom in the world today: religious terrorism.

 

The International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief, adopted by the General Assembly and proclaimed for Aug. 22, is a long overdue but welcome step for religious liberty.

The startling reality is that nearly one-third of the world’s population lives under the threat of violence because of their religious identity. In fact, nearly every major conflict in the world — whether U.S.-Iran relations, the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, India and Pakistan’s border tensions, or the global refugee crisis — has a religious dimension to it.

Treating religion as merely a backdrop to world events, or ignoring its fundamental role in informing social and cultural behavior, would be a grave mistake. When we fail to identify and root out religious terrorism, violence, and hostility, minorities pay the price for it.

Over the past decade, we have seen Christianity nearly erased from its place of birth by ISIS and other Islamic extremist groups. In Pakistan, the number of Christians has declined due to forced conversions. It was only because of a global outcry that Asia Bibi, who was sentenced to death under Pakistan’s archaic blasphemy laws, was able to escape and find refuge in the West. In India, Christians are harassed by anti-conversion laws.:snip:

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