The number of deaths each year related to religious extremism is largely unreported by the media. Each year, individuals practicing their religious faith have faced a steep increase in violence and religious persecution in countries throughout the world. In advance of Vision TV’s broadcast of investigative filmmaker Martin Himel’s in-depth documentaries Persecuted Christians and his most recent series Jew-Bashing: The New Anti-Semitism, a distinguished panel came together for a ZoomerTV Special Report The War on Faith: Religious Persecution Around The World, filmed in front of a live studio audience at ZoomerMedia’s ZoomerPlex studios on April 26, 2013.
Led by Libby Znaimer, host of The Zoomer Report on AM740 Zoomer Radio and The New Classical 96.3 & 103.1 FM as well as Zoomer Magazine contributor, the expert panel featured His Eminence Thomas Cardinal Collins, Archbishop of Toronto, as well as Conrad Black, who has written extensively on the subject. The panel also included Rabbi Yossi Sapirman, Senior Rabbi at the Beth Torah Synagogue in Toronto, Shabir Ally, President of the Islamic Information and Dawah Centre International and host of Vision TV’s weekly Let the Quran Speak program, as well as Pandit Roopnauth Sharma, Spiritual Leader of the Ram Mandir Temple and Vice-President of the Ontario Multi-Faith Council. Documentary filmmaker Martin Himel was also on hand to share his experiences witnessing religious persecution first hand while traveling to various countries to produce Persecuted Christians and Jew Bashing:The New Anti-Semitism.
With the freedom to practice religion under direct attack throughout the world, the panel sought to determine the possible causes of an escalation in vandalism and violent incidents in recent years. The round table discussion began by highlighting the statistics of religious persecution provided by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, particularly a staggering 30 per cent rise in anti-Semitism in 2012.
While religious persecution may be considered by most to occur in faraway countries, Himel revealed that anti-Semitism is closer to home than we might think. Himel’s research for his new series Jew Bashing brought him to investigate a number of anti-Semitic websites in North America with very dedicated followings. The panel stressed the importance of questioning the validity of what is presented on the internet, with the presence of inauthentic material that is not sourced or edited noted. The panel also debated why Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would use Holocaust denial for political gains, and why education is a critical tool that should be used to push back against ignorance and encourage religious tolerance.
As the burning and bombing of Christian churches becomes a common occurrence in countries such as Egypt and Iraq, the Christian religion is quickly becoming the most marginalized religion in the world and one of the most subject to persecution. It was also noted that countries that had recently experienced the Arab Spring were among the countries that have recently seen a rise in religious intolerance. The panel questioned why these atrocities do not receive enough media attention, and why covering Christians as minorities is not seen as important by the media. Black described this as the gravest unreported tragedy in the world, and the panel traded ideas on the importance of raising more awareness of these issues in the media.
The round table discussion ended on a positive and hopeful note by highlighting Canada’s involvement in finding a solution to mounting religious persecution with the recent creation of the Office of Religious Freedom. With Dr. Adam Bennett at the helm of the ORF, Canada aims to be a leader in the protection of threatened religious minorities and to proactively oppose religious hatred and intolerance in the world.
To take in this whole timely and important round table discussion, tune in to the VisionTV premiere of The War on Faith: Religious Persecution Around The World on Monday, May 13 at 10pm ET/7pm PT on VisionTV, and watch the entire Extremism Exposed documentary series dedicated to the ongoing investigation of religious persecution starting May 6th at 9pm ET/6pm PT and ending June 17th.
– by Zoriana Zwarycz