In India, a 52-year-old Christian preacher was kidnapped, beheaded, and dismembered by unknown assailants--one of hundreds of recent religiously motivated attacks on Christians in India. Priests have been murdered, nuns raped, and leprosy workers burned alive. India's Muslims, Sikhs, and Buddhists also suffer attacks from radical Hindu groups for their religion.
In Sudan, the radical Islamic government continues its deliberate bombing campaign on schools, hospitals, and relief centers in its war on the predominantly Christian and animist south. The government refuses to stop its imposition of sharia law on the entire country. It tortures, enslaves, and deliberately starves all those who do not submit to its form of Islam. This war, which the world ignores, has claimed two million lives in the last 13 years, many more than in Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Chechnya combined.
This list could go through more than 50 countries where people suffer violence for their religion, with 50 more practicing pervasive discrimination.
The Western world has tried to ignore this fact. At the end of 1997, the former executive editor of the New York Times, A.M. Rosenthal, confessed, "Early this year I realized that in decades of reporting, writing or assigning stories on human rights, I rarely touched on one of the most important. Political human rights, legal, civil and press rights, emphatically often; but the right to worship where and how God or conscience leads, almost never." While Rosenthal has changed dramatically on this score, the pattern he describes is still widespread.
The importance of religion
One reason that religious persecution has been neglected is that religion itself has been neglected as a factor in human affairs. The essential point here is not whether one is personally religious. As an empirical fact, …