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Millions fled homes in 2013 due to religious beliefs: US

AFP | Last Updated: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 - 03:24

Washington: Conflicts and repression around the world in 2013 triggered the largest displacement of religious communities in recent memory, a US report said today, revealing millions had fled their homes.

"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 United States said in its annual International Religious Freedom Report.

"Out of fear or by force, entire neighborhoods are emptying of residents."

From the Middle East to Asia and stretching into parts of Africa and Europe, "communities are disappearing from their traditional and historic homes and dispersing across the geographic map. In conflict zones, in particular, this mass displacement has become a pernicious norm."
The 2013 report, prepared by the State Department, singled out Syria where it warned that after three years of civil war against President Bashar al-Assad "the Christian presence is becoming a shadow of its former self."

"In the city of Homs the number of Christians dwindled to as few as 1,000 from approximately 160,000 prior to the conflict."

Amid Egypt`s political upheavals as the military ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, in June, and moved against his Muslim Brotherhood, Christian churches, homes and businesses were looted and torched.

"Islamist-led mobs carried out acts of violence, intimidation, compelled expulsions, and punishment against Christians, especially in Upper Egypt," the report said.

But there were also attacks on Shiites led by Salafist after "months of government and official Islamic anti-Shiite rhetoric."

A million people fled the fighting in the Central African Republic last year, where at least 700 people were killed in sectarian violence, and in Myanmar mob-violence in Meikhtila province caused 100 deaths and over 140,000 people were displaced.

"North Korea again stood out for its absolute prohibition of religious organizations and harsh punishments for any unauthorized religious activities," it said, while countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran and Sudan put severe restrictions on people following religious groups "that did not conform to the state-approved religion."

First Published: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 - 03:24

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