UCA News, the publisher of Asia’s most comprehensive Catholic news website, has published a landmark book on religious freedom across the region to be launched in Yangon on October 14.
Providing a comprehensive survey across Asia and nine specific case studies, On the Edge is an account of religious persecution across a region where the world’s big four religions – Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism – co-exist but where there is increasing intolerance.
Designed to shine a light on religious freedom in a region where more than one third of the world’s people live, On the Edge will be launched in Yangon by Cardinal Charles Maung Bo on October 14.
Created Myanmar’s first ever Cardinal by Pope Francis in 2015, Cardinal Bo has been one of his country’s – and Southeast Asia’s – most tireless advocates for all human rights, including religious freedom.
Building on the work for this year’s book On the Edge, next year UCAN will provide an exhaustive look at the situation facing all religions in each country of the region. The next part of the agency’s religious freedom project will be the first Asia Religious Persecution Index (ARPI) a comprehensive and comparative report measuring religious freedom and persecution throughout Asia.
The UCAN index will combine thorough analysis, reporting and case studies and will be the first independent, non-governmental report to measure religious freedom across Asia.
“The Asia Religious Persecution Index will be the first of its kind,” said the Executive Director of UCAN, Father Michael Kelly. “The aim of the index is to provide a comprehensive overview of the state of religious freedom in each country; a sense of where each country lies in comparison to its neighbors, and the ways in which things are improving or deteriorating,”
On the Edge is the first step in developing an Asia wide appreciation of the challenges to religious freedom viewed comparatively. The forthcoming religious persecution index fills a noticeable gap in the commentary on human rights in the region.
A few governments, including the U.S., publish annual reports. Yet there is virtually no regular independent documentation on this issue which underpins tensions within and between nations across the Asian region.
Rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch publish occasional reports on particular instances of religious persecution, while religious groups such as Christian Solidarity Worldwide publish reports focused primarily on the persecution of Christians.
UCAN is the first pan-Asian organization to take the step to look broadly at the state of all religions of all denominations with the Index.
To create the ARPI, independent researchers will liaise with UCAN’s Asia-wide network of bureaux where editors and reporters will create a comprehensive dossier on each country. This will include, but not be limited to, instances of religious persecution, the quality legal frameworks designed to protect religious freedom, the use of judicial power and extra judicial programs, the repression of religious minorities, the separation of the state from each country’s dominant religion(s).
In the final report, 22 countries will have a dedicated section that will explain the state of religious freedom within their borders, analyze broader related issues, and highlight specific incidents, within the reporting period.
Interspersed with the individual country reports, will be up to 10 case studies highlighting a particular incidence of progress or decline in religious freedom.
Each country will receive an ARPI score measured on an easy-to-understand, seven-point scale. Each country will also be ranked on a scale of 1 (Dismal performance) to 7 (Outstandingly positive performance) representing the state of religious freedom in each country.
The five overall areas of assessment will be:
- State of religious and ethnic pluralism
- The legal framework for religion and access to remedies and systems of redress in the event of abuses and breakdowns
- State of official recognition of the Institutional independence of religious communities
- Religious tolerance as it occurs in the operation of national cultures
- Government accountability
Founded in 1979, UCAN (the Union of Catholic Asian News) is a Catholic news organization that publishes ucanews.com, Asia’s most comprehensive religious news website. It reports on 22 countries in the Asian region from 10 offices with over 40 full time staff. Its focus is on freedom of religious belief and the fortunes of poor and marginalized communities in Asian nations.