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Millions displaced in 2013 due to religious conflicts

Washington – Conflicts and repression around the world last year triggered the largest displacement of religious communities in recent memory, the United States said Monday, revealing millions had fled their homes.

“In almost every corner of the globe, millions of Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and others representing a range of faiths were forced from their homes on account of their religious beliefs,” Washington said in its annual International Religious Freedom Report.

“Out of fear or by force, entire neighborhoods are emptying of residents.”

From the Middle East to Asia and stretching into parts of Africa and Europe, “communities are disappearing from their traditional and historic homes,” it said, adding that in “conflict zones” displacements were becoming “a pernicious norm.”

The 2013 report, prepared by the State Department, singled out Syria where it warned that, after three years of civil war, “the Christian presence is becoming a shadow of its former self.”

In Homs, the Christian population had fallen to 1,000 from 160,0000.

“It seems to us that in recent memory, we’ve not seen the numbers of people pushed from their homes in conflicts that have a religious or sectarian dimension,” Assistant Secretary Tom Malinowski said as he unveiled the report, highlighting the situation in Syria and Iraq.

Amid Egypt’s political upheavals as the military ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi and moved against his Muslim Brotherhood, Christian churches, homes and businesses were looted and torched.