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US: ISIS, Boko Haram dealt blow to religious freedom


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Washington – The rise of international terrorist groups, including Islamic State and Boko Haram, has been the most harmful development to freedom of religion around the world, US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Wednesday.

A State Department study of international religious freedom in 2014 points to Islamic State engaging in forced conversions, slavery or executions targeting Shia Muslims and religious minorities, including Christians, Yazidis and Sabean-Mandaeans.

“The repugnance of these acts is only magnified when perpetrators point the finger at God and say God somehow licensed these acts,” Kerry said in releasing the report. “Each victim, each nightmare, each wound is another reason to urgently address the root causes of violent extremism.”

The report also points to violence by Boko Haram in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger that killed more people in 2014 than the previous five years combined and faults the Nigerian government for not doing more to confront the terrorist group and investigate, prosecute and punish perpetrators of religious violence.

The US, however, urged governments not to use the threat of violent extremism as a pretext for targeting legitimate religious groups, urged the protection of minorities, and condemned blasphemy laws that are used to suppress minorities.

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The report also pointed to the rise of anti-Semitic incidents in Europe in 2014, but praised governments for taking action.

Ambassador for International Religious Freedom David Saperstein called on European nations to guard against the rise of anti-Muslim sentiment as hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing Iraq and Syria settle in Europe.

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