"The suppression and abuse of the fundamental right of freedom of belief and conscience often leads in this world to violent religious extremism. And as we know all too well, such extremism is a major cause of instability and violence in the world."
Swett said that some of the governments the commission studied perpetrated the abuses themselves, while in other cases governments look the other way when individuals trampled on the rights of religious minorities. "But in either case the result is division, instability, and in all too many cases, violence," she said.
Swett pointed to studies by the Pew Foundation, among others, that show that countries with greater tolerance and religious freedom are more stable and prosperous.
“Religious freedom is a core human right," she said, one that is "intertwined" with all other human rights, "most notably freedom of expression, association and assembly."
In some cases, such as Ethiopia and Tajikistan, Swett argued, governments that stifle religious freedom "drive their citizens into the arms of extremists."
At the same time, she said, groups that feel threatened may ratchet up the tension in a defensive manner, "creating a kind of vigilante atmosphere." She pointed to Egypt and Pakistan as examples of such reactive violence.
Swett also pointed to countries that try to contain religious extremism through suppressive measures, with the perverse effect, she argued, of suppressing moderate practice while making radicals appear cool.
Eric Schulzke writes on national politics for the Deseret News. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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