Minority groups have very often been the target of religious persecution, owing to their differing beliefs and perceived threat to social harmony and national security. Even in countries with freedom of religion etched into their constitutions, this issue is nonetheless prevalent. In this essay, I will cover three clear instances of freedom of religion violations across the world: the persecution of Muslims in India, Muslim Uyghurs in the Xinjiang province of China, and the Rohingyas in Myanmar.
Islam has existed in India at least from 700AD. Across Indian history, Islam had a significant influence on culture and history: countless Islamic empires ruled over India and famous architectural pieces including the Taj Mahal were erected by Muslim rulers. Nonetheless, when the country obtained independence in 1947, a faction of Muslims in congress separated and created their own country: Pakistan. This left a deeply fractured country, and Hindu leaders in India took advantage of the animosity against Muslims in the Hindu-dominant India to persecute them. In the context of recent events, Prime Minister Modi has been especially hard on Muslims. His campaign rested on this toughness. In February 2020, this sentiment culminated in the 2020 Delhi riots, in which Hindu nationalists attacked Muslims and their businesses. 53 people died in the incident, a clear example of what happens when religious tensions are left to fester.
Uyghurs are an ethnic minority in the Peoples’ Republic of China, and but almost entirely live in one province: Xinjiang. Although by law Chinese, Uyghurs are ethnically more closely related to central Asian peoples. The reason for their persecution is multi-faceted: Xinjiang is a crucial economic point for China to connect with Europe, the Chinese political ideology dictates consistent and uniform thought, and there is a known history of ethnic tensions in the area. China responded in the 2010s by creating a number of “re-education” camps aimed at removing Uyghurs from their religion background and following Chinese customs and laws. The government has even moved to create “kindergartens” to do the same thing, but specifically targeting younger members of the population in an effort to extinguish the Uyghur cultural identity. The moves are shocking and clearly a violation of human rights in the area.
A final example is the Rohingyas of Myanmar. They are a stateless, largely Muslim, group of people which Myanmar blatantly rejects as its own citizens. The largest evidence of genocide occurred in the years of 2017 to 2018, when a majority of the population was forced into neighboring Bangladesh. Numerous reporters, agencies (including the UN), and Rohingya people themselves stated the Burmese military conducted gang rapes, arson, and killings in the process of evicting them from the country. The incident is part of a long-standing persecution against Muslims in a Buddhist majority country and should not be tolerated.
Through these three simple but provocative examples, it’s clear to see religious persecution is prevalent even in this supposedly “open” era. Many other examples could have been given, and in places few would expect. For one, consider the often violent persecution in South Korea against the religious minority group, Shincheonji. There, Shincheonji beliefs have been deemed heretical and “anti-nation and anti-government”, despite the church’s multiple and reported acts for peace and volunteerism. While such slander is spread by “rival” churches, members must daily face harassment, ostracism, fear of losing their livelihood, and domestic violence. Some have even taken their lives in the face of such abuse. The situation in South Korea is only one more instance to add to the ever-growing list of religious violence. We should not let these abuses stand but make every effort to bring those perpetrators to justice.