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UPDATE: This article has been updated to reflect the most recent State Department figures on the world’s population currently living under highly or severely restricted regimes in regards to religious freedom.
On Easter, Christians around the world will celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and His victory over sin and death. Jesus Christ’s conquering of death on the cross fulfills God’s promise of eternal life. As Romans 6:9 states, “We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him.”
As American Christians, we are fortunate and blessed to have the freedom to celebrate Easter according to the dictates of our own, independent conscience.
However, it is important to recognize that not all religious believers around the world are able to worship freely.
Today, nearly 80% of the world’s population lives in countries where religious freedom is highly or severely restricted. For millions of people, repression, violence and discrimination are a part of daily life as governments and hostile regimes prevent people from living in accordance with their faith.
Russia, for example, is one of the world’s worst violators of religious freedom and human rights. “‘Nontraditional’ religious minorities” are targeted by the government, “with fines, detentions, and criminal charges,” according to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom 2021 report.
The Russian regime’s religious persecution extends beyond its borders — particularly to Crimea — where force, repressive laws and criminal charges are used to punish people of faith and further extend President Vladimir Putin’s power.
In China, too, the Chinese Communist Party has shuttered thousands of Christian churches, arrested worshippers and replaced religious images with pictures of General Secretary Xi Jinping. Additionally, the CCP is actively committing genocide in Xinjiang against Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities.
In India, anti-conversion laws have sparked an increase in hate crimes targeting Christians and Muslims. “Ultimately, anti-conversion laws provide legal cover for radical nationalists to attack India’s Christians and Muslims with impunity. One simply needs to claim someone was engaged in forceful conversions to justify an assault,” William Stark, regional manager of the nonprofit International Christian Concern, said.
In the Middle East, the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan extinguished any hope for advancing religious freedom. Afghanistan is the most difficult country in the world to be a Christian, and it is “impossible” to openly practice one’s Christian faith, according to Open Doors.
Freedom to worship is the foundation of peace. Where religious freedom prevails, societies are safer, more prosperous and more secure. Advancing and defending religious freedom is therefore not only a moral necessity, but also a national security imperative.
An attack on religious freedom anywhere is an affront to religious freedom everywhere. For peace, freedom and human dignity to prosper around the world, governments and societies must protect the rights of all people to worship freely and practice their faith.
Reporting from The Daily Caller.