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Terror Groups and Freedom of Religion

Unidentified relatives mourning the killing of Ethiopian Christians in Libya by ISIS. 04-20-15

Non-state actors are among the greatest abusers of the exercise of religious freedom in the world.

According to the Department of State’s recently released annual report on International Religious Freedom, non-state actors are among the greatest abusers of the exercise of religious freedom in the world.

“We’ve also seen certain non-state actors – including terrorist organizations like ISIL, al-Qaida, al-Shabaab, Boko Haram – posing a major threat to religious freedom,” said Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the Report’s release.

In March, Secretary Kerry announced that in his judgment, ISIL is responsible for genocide in areas under its control including against Yezidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims. He said that ISIL is also responsible for crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing directed at those groups and in some cases also against Sunni Muslims, Kurds, and other minorities. ISIL’s barbarous acts include killings, enslavement and trafficking, rape, and other sexual abuse.

In Africa’s Lake Chad region, Boko Haram, an ISIL affiliate, targets both Christians and Muslims who oppose their violent ideology with deadly attacks. They have attacked and destroyed dozens of churches and mosques often killing worshippers during religious services or immediately afterward.

In Somalia, Al-Shabaab continues to impose violently its own interpretation of Islamic law and its practices on others. They have used self-styled “sharia courts” to try and punish people for blasphemy, apostasy and other “religious crimes,” and they have subsequently killed those “convicted.” Al-Shabaab threatens to kill anyone suspected of converting to Christianity, and in areas under their control, to close mosques whose teachings do not conform to the group’s violent interpretation of Islam.

This harsh suppression of other individuals’ freedom to worship, wherever these groups hold sway, is yet another reason the United States is leading the fight against these groups and others like them.

“Support for religious liberty guides the United States and our foreign policy every single day,” said Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

“There is, after all, no more egregious form of discrimination than separating out the followers of one religion from another – whether in a village, on a bus, in a classroom – with the intent of murdering or enslaving the members of a particular group.”