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TAIWAN: No anti-cult activity, no religious intolerance: the example of Taiwan

Visit of the headquarters of a minority religion in Taiwan, Jehovah’s Witnesses (Credit: HRWF)

TAIWAN: No anti-cult activity, no religious intolerance: the example of Taiwan

Are European states in a position to teach lessons to other countries about religious inclusion and religious tolerance? Taiwan might be.

By Willy Fautré, Human Rights Without Frontiers

HRWF (21.08.2023) – Taiwan is home to a wide range of religious or belief communities, either theistic or non-theistic, and no societal or state intolerance is reported in this country, including towards so-called new religious movements, while this is not the case in Europe. Why?


During two trips to Taiwan this year, I took a close look at this culture of tolerance and inclusiveness and I wondered why in Europe a number of states with a dominant Christian religion in their history had developed a culture of intolerance, suspicion and stigmatization about new religious movements. Some short reflections on this issue.


Religious intolerance in Europe


One of the factors fueling religious intolerance on the European continent is the activity of former members of non-traditional religious or belief communities who have left them in the midst of a conflict and who are driven by a spirit of revenge. Groups of apostates have thus formed out of common hostility to various movements, which they have designated as dangerous and harmful cults, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, Hare Krishna, Mormons, the Unification Church, Scientology and others.


The dynamics of the apostates’ groups in Europe especially developed at the time of massacres and collective suicides perpetrated within some marginal religious groups in the 1990s on the American and European continents. They found allies in the media, who were looking for “juicy” stories, and they quite often fed them with unfounded accusations, distorted information and fabricated cases, creating hereby a climate of social anxiety and hostility. The word “cult”, systematically attributed to new religious or belief movements, became a signal of distrust, threat and danger. Many European governments surfed on this media wave of stigmatization, demonization and hostility. Intolerance and discrimination followed and continue to this day, in particular through their so-called “cult observatories” in some countries.


This climate of intolerance was clearly denounced by USCIRF (United States Commission on International Religious Freedom) in its recent report (24 July 2023) titled “Religious Freedom Concerns about Religious Freedom in the European Union” in which a section was devoted to the anti-cult issue and was stressing that “Several governments in the EU have supported or facilitated the propagation of harmful information about certain religious groups.”


The context of Taiwan’s religious tolerance


Taiwan does not a have dominant religion, unlike most European countries, as a survey by the Academia Sinica’s Institute of Sociology released in 2021 shows.

27.9 percent of the population exclusively practices traditional folk religions, 19.8 percent Buddhism, and 18.7 percent Taoism, with 23.9 percent identifying as nonbelievers.  The rest of the population consists mainly of Protestants (5.5 percent), I-Kuan Tao (2.2 percent), Catholics (1.4 percent).

Members of other religious groups include Jews, Sunni Muslims, the Baha’i Faith, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mahikari, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Church of Scientology and the Unification Church.

Some studies find that as many as 80 percent of religious practitioners combine multiple faith traditions. The concept of heresy or normative religious orthodoxy is therefore not prevalent.

As of the end of 2019, there were more than 15,000 registered religious groups representing over 20 religions.


Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons or Scientologists, just to name a few, are “unloved” religious movements in Europe where they are the targets of derogatory statements, defamatory campaigns, distorted news and false information. In the late 1990s, France and Belgium had respectively investigated 172 and 187 religious or belief movements suspected of being dangerous or harmful cults. Both countries still have a very active state cult observatory allegedly monitoring their activities and publishing controversial reports that have been successfully challenged in courts.


In Taiwan, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Mahikari followers, Unification Church members or Scientologists for example are treated on an equal footing with other religious groups and without any prejudice or suspicion. They have been welcome after 40 years of a dictatorial regime in the second half of last century.


Jehovah’s Witnesses in the 21st century democratic Taiwan

Jehovah’s Witnesses in Taiwan have never experienced any difficulty with their usual religious activities as a group in the 21st century.

Proselytizing in the public space has never been a source of serious complaint and has never involved police intervention.

They have seldom faced any opposition by the local authorities or the local population when applying for permission to build or rent a place for worship.

As in any other country Jehovah’s Witnesses do not participate in elections, which is their way of remaining politically neutral while respecting their government.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are conscientious objectors to military service. In 2000, Taiwan introduced an alternative military service and was hereby the first country in Asia to take such an initiative. Out of 699 candidates opting for this status at that time, 634 were Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Concerning their refusal of blood transfusion, they proceed as in other countries. In Taiwan, they have set up five Hospital Liaison Committees (HLC) which are now functioning. After discussions, they always find doctors and hospitals willing to treat them without blood transfusions. There are more and more cooperative doctors, they say, and there were only very few cases to be dealt with in conformity with their beliefs at it can be seen from the few examples hereafter.

In 2019 a 19-year-old Jehovah’s Witness was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). The surgeon respected the will of the family about blood transfusion and the patient successfully performed his chemotherapy. Four years later he continues to be in remission. This was the first time in Taiwan that a patient with ALL was treated without blood transfusion. The attending physician published a report regarding this landmark case and regularly lectures at international medical seminars about how to treat patients with ALL without blood transfusions.


A seven-year-old girl was involved in a vehicle accident which resulted in severe head trauma and cranial bleeding. The father who is a Jehovah’s Witness requested the assistance of a representative of the local Hospital Liaison Committee of Jehovah’s Witnesses (HLC) to consult with the physician about treatment options that could be used instead of a blood transfusion. The doctor successfully operated on the patient.


In another case, a young female Jehovah’s Witness was diagnosed with a large spinal tumor (Ewing’s Sarcoma). She accepted the proposed surgery and chemotherapy, but without blood transfusion. The surgeon performed the operation without the usual blood transfusion and with hardly half of the usual blood loss.


No anti-cult activity has targeted Jehovah’s Witnesses in Taiwan and religious tolerance fares all the better.

Taipei Taiwan Mormon Temple opened in 1984 (Credit: HRWF)

Opening event of the Church of Scientology in Kaohsiung in 2013 (Taiwan)


Further reading about FORB in Taiwan on HRWF website

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EUROPE: Europe’s growing anti-Christian intolerance problem

Europe’s growing anti-Christian intolerance problem

By Dr Angelo Bottone


IONA Institute (05/04/2022)- https://bit.ly/3KxG8Q4 – Violence against Christians in Europe is both unrecognised and underestimated, says a major new report. Secular intolerance and Islamist physical violence are two main threats to religious freedom, but they often downplayed by media.

The Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians in Europe (OIDAC) looks at five European countries where the rights of Christians are under most pressure, namely France, Germany, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

The Vienna-based organisation found that in 2019-20 anti-Christian incidents, including murder, have increased in frequency. In France, three Christians were killed by Islamists and many more were injured in 2019-20.

According to the report, the strongest secular trend threatening the exercise of religious freedom aims at marginalising Christians from the public sphere. Even in countries that have a reputation for being tolerant, such as Sweden, Christians are practically excluded from some professions because of the lack of the right to conscientious objection. Doctors and nurses, for instance, are forced to participate to abortion.

All five countries covered by the report were found to have problems with the protection of freedom of speech. Self-censorship is becoming more frequent in the public square, because of the fear of negative consequences.  This problem is exacerbated by sensationalist and religious-illiterate media that distort or misrepresent the history and the views of Christians, who are frequently mocked or disproportionally criticised.

The United Kingdom is the country with the most cases of legal prosecutions for “hate speech”. Workers have been sanctioned or dismissed for defending the traditional Christian teaching on marriage or on sexuality. Even Biblical quotes have been seen as hateful on social media and reported to the police. (We saw a particularly drastic case of this in Finland recently. Fortunately, the accused person, a former Government Minister, was acquitted.)

The introduction of “censorship zones” around abortion clinics by some local authorities in the UK and Spain has also limited the possibility of prayer and offering help. The same is now set to happen in Northern Ireland, and it appears to be on the cards in the South as well.

Parental rights in education have been limited, particularly in the area of teaching sex education. Students are refused the possibility of opting out of classes that contravene their religious and moral convictions. This is in contrast to the approach towards religious education, where opt-outs are strongly protected, and rightly so. In France, students and teachers are prevented any public display of religious sentiments or symbols but in all countries Christians feel they cannot freely express their views without negative consequences.

The persecution of former Muslims was a main concern in France and Germany. Those who convert to Christianity face hostility by their families and communities of origin, in the form of rejection, threats, physical violence. This happens in hotspot areas, particularly in neighbourhoods under the influence of radical Islam.

Even in areas where Christians are a majority, more and more frequently churches are been attacked, sometimes burned, and celebrations are been interrupted. Vandalism against religious building is also common.

Unlike other parts of the world, intolerance against Christian is a new phenomenon in Western Europe and no proper substantial research has been conducted so far.

The report formulates a number of recommendations to the governments but also to the human rights institutions and to members of society. Firstly, discrimination against Christian should be recognised and properly monitored. Legislation should not limit the rights of Christians, particularly in the public square. Converts should be protected. Negative stereotyping should be avoided and the public representation of the history and beliefs of Christians should be more balanced and truthful, also through the promotion of religious literacy.

Photo :Source IONA Institute

Further reading about FORB in Europe on HRWF website

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EUROPE: Anti-Christian hate crimes in Europe rose 70% between 2019 and 2020

Anti-Christian hate crimes in Europe rose 70% between 2019 and 2020, watchdog reports

By Anugrah Kumar


The Christian Post (11.12.2021) – https://bit.ly/3IDUKN0 – A new study from a Vienna-based watchdog organization suggests that anti-Christian hate crimes in Europe have increased by 70% between 2019 and 2020 amid rising concern about declining religious freedom across the continent.


A new report this month from the Observatory on Intolerance Against Christians in Europe (OIDAC) focuses on how declining religious freedom, freedom of conscience and parental rights have impacted the liberties of European Christians.


The document identifies “increasing intolerance and discrimination” against Christians from governments through legislation and political discourse. It also identifies intolerance from individuals through “social exclusion and criminal acts.”


OIDAC notes that the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe published its annual hate crimes report in November, stating there were 981 anti-Christian hate crimes in Europe for 2020 compared to 578 in 2019.


“This meant an increase of 70% in anti-Christian hate crime since last year,” the OIDAC report states.


“Our numbers speak louder than our words. This is one of the reasons OIDAC was founded over ten years ago, because there was no other organisation reporting and raising awareness on this phenomenon in Europe.”


The study compiled over two years focuses on situations for Christians in five countries — France, Germany, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom — amid rising “secular intolerance” and “Islamic oppression.”


“These countries were selected because, according to our observations, Christians face the most difficulties in them,” the report explains. “The findings of the report are based on a variety of data we collected. The majority of our data is based on descriptive cases, an extensive questionnaire and in-depth interviews with experts and afflicted Christians.”


While hate crimes have a higher frequency in France and Germany, they tend to be more severe in Spain and France, the organization finds.


“The number of anti-Christian hate crimes in Germany is surprisingly high but not as severe as in other countries in this report,” the report reads.


“The observed cases of violence in Germany are mainly perpetrated against Protestant and Catholic churches and Christian buildings. These include vandalism, looting, graffiti, and damage of property with a high and slightly increasing frequency in the last years. There have also been more severe cases that show a clear bias like physical assaults on priests, arson attacks and decapitated statues. OIDAC has documented 255 violent attacks against Christians or Christian sites between 2019 and 2020.”


In terms of legal prosecution for alleged “hate speech,” the U.K. has the highest number of cases. But the other countries have high rates of self-censorship, says the report.


The right to conscientious objection has been under threat in Sweden, France and Spain.

“The absence of the conscience clause in Sweden is already affecting Christian professionals, and intentions to alter this clause in France and Spain could lead to a complete exclusion of Christians in certain professions,” OIDAC warns.


In the education sector, the organization warns that “Christian university students perceive that they cannot debate certain topics freely or express their opinions without judgment or negative consequences, which leads to the crippling effects of self-censorship.” The document also contends that various new sex and relationship education regulations are violating parental rights.


In France and Spain, most of the attacks were on Catholics. And in Germany and the U.K., both Catholic and non-Catholic Christians have been targeted.


OIDAC recorded 175 incidents against religious freedom in Spain during 2019, and 140 (80%) were targeted at Catholics. In 2020, 51 violent incidents against Christians were recorded compared to 30 cases in 2019.


The watchdog says “secular intolerance” and “Islamic oppression” are two of the primary threatening dynamics impacting the lives of Christians in Europe in four main areas of life: church, education, politics and the workplace.


“We found that the area of church life is the most visibly affected due to an increasing number of hate crimes in most countries, but education, the workplace and politics are following shortly after,” the report states.


“[W]hile secular intolerance is the driving dynamic in most of the cases and areas of life we observed, Islamic oppression mainly occurs in concentrated hotspot areas, in which Christian converts are the group that is mostly affected along with other residential Christians.”


The report argues that the opposition against conservative Christian moral views leads to secular intolerance.


“This polarization also appears to be promoted by sensationalist and religious-illiterate media that stigmatizes and marginalizes religious voices in the public debate,” the report adds.


Christian converts with a Muslim background are “very vulnerable,” the group says. “Our data indicates that many of them face intolerance and violence from their social environment, and the danger they face is often ignored by state authorities.”


The report also contends that churches had their religious freedom denied and faced discrimination in Europe due to gathering restrictions related to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

“This happened either by the unjustified and disproportionate use of power by public officials (Spain) or through unproportionate blanket bans on public worship, downgrading it to a non-essential service,” OIDAC details.


Last July, the watchdog found that there had been about a 285% increase in the number of “anti-Christian incidents” reported in France over the previous decade-plus.


“The French government reported 275, what they call, anti-Christian acts [in 2008],” the group’s Executive Director Ellen Fantini told The Christian Post at the time. “So that is anything from targeting a church in some way with vandalism or a public Christian statue, it could be a Christian cemetery or it could be actual assaults against French Christians with an anti-Christian bias.”


Photo : Catholic church bishops and faithful gather during a ceremony at the sanctuary of Lourdes, France, on Nov. 6, 2021. | AFP via Getty Images/Valentine Chapuis

Further reading about FORB in Europe on HRWF website

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EUROPE: 980 hate crimes against Christians reported in Europe in 2020

980 hate crimes against Christians reported in Europe in 2020

An OSCE report shows that graffiti, vandalism and arson attacks against churches are some of the more common crimes. There are 70% more cases reported than in 2019.

Evangelical Focus (18.11.2021) – https://bit.ly/30Nn92j – The Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has launched its Hate Crime Data 2020 on 16 November, the International Day for Tolerance.

The ODIHR collects data from states, governments statistics, civil society, international organisations and UNHCR and OSCE missions.

The organization’s hate crime database is the “largest of its kind worldwide. It is updated each year and it also includes data on hate crime legislation, prosecution and sentencing, as well as best practices and resources and tools to support victims”.


What is hate crime?


According to ODIHR, “hate crimes are criminal acts motivated by bias or prejudice towards particular groups of people. They comprise two elements: a criminal offence and a bias motivation”.

“A hate crime has taken place when a perpetrator has intentionally targeted an individual or property because of one or more identity traits or expressed hostility towards these identity traits during the crime”, they add.

The report looked at different categories of hate crimes: Racist and xenophobic hate crime, Anti-Roma hate crime, Anti-Semitic hate crime, Anti-Muslim hate crime, Anti-Christian hate crime, Other hate crime based on religion or belief, Gender-based hate crime, Anti-LGBTI hate crime, Disability hate crime.


Hate crime against Christians

The European body explains that the hate crime against Christians “are influenced by a number of factors, including the minority or majority status in a given territory, the level of recognition of particular religious groups in a given country, or political and media focus on these groups at a particular moment”.

“ODIHR’s hate crime reporting includes reports of physical assaults and murders. Graffiti and vandalism against places of worship, the desecration of cemeteries and arson attacks against churches are some of the more common types of crimes motivated by bias against Christians”, underlines the report.

For example, in France, the arsons against churches has significantly increase, and in Scotland, the problem is so great that the church is now receiving financial support, from a hate crime fund, to improve its security measures.

In addition to the data, since 2004, “OSCE Ministerial Council decisions and declarations have included specific commitments on and references to the importance of combating prejudice, intolerance and discrimination against Christians”, says the ODIHR.


980 crimes in 2020

In 2020, the ODIHR received a total of 7,181 cases of hate crimes against different kinds of groups and individuals. 4,008 of them were descriptive cases and the rest were police data from individual member states.

Of those 4,008 descriptive cases, 980 are hate crimes against Christians, almost 25%, more than against any other religious group. There has been an increase of almost 70% comparing the numbers of incidents from last year to the number of this year.


However, a group monitoring religious freedom in the continent, the Observatory of Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians in Europe (OIDAC), stresses that “only 11 countries report data on hate crimes against Christians [..], and of the 136 civil society organisations that provided descriptive data, only 8 organisations consistently reported incidents against Christians,so that this obviously distorts the statistics significantly”.


“Both of these findings put the reality of the situation into a different perspective, which indicates that the actual number of hate crimes against Christians is probably way higher”, they add.


Photo: Krisztian Matyas, Unsplash, CC0

Further reading about FORB in EU on HRWF website

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EUROPE: The anti-cult ideology and FECRIS: A White Paper

The anti-cult ideology and FECRIS: Dangers for religious freedom. A White Paper

Six scholars look at the European anti-cult federation, and conclude it is seriously dangerous for religious liberty

By Luigi Berzano (University of Torino, Italy), Boris Falikov (Russian State University for the Humanities, Moscow, Russia), Willy Fautré (Human Rights Without Frontiers, Brussels, Belgium), Liudmyla Filipovich (Department of Religious Studies, Institute of Philosophy of the National Academy of Sciences, Kiev, Ukraine), Massimo Introvigne (Center for Studies on New Religions, Torino, Italy), and Bernadette Rigal-Cellard (University Bordeaux-Montaigne, Bordeaux, France)

Bitter Winter (23.08.2021) – https://bit.ly/3sLauGv – In 2020, the USCIRF (United States Commission on International Religious Freedom), a bipartisan commission of the U.S. federal government, identified the anti-cult ideology as a major threat to international religious liberty (USCIRF 2020).

The anti-cult ideology, or anti-cultism, is based on the idea that “religions” and “cults” are different. “Cults,” it claims, are not religions, although they may falsely claim to be religious. While religions are joined freely, “victims” join “cults” because of the latter’s coercive practices.

Read the White Paper on Bitter Winter

Table of contents

The anti-cult ideology

The case of FECRIS

  1. FECRIS systematically spread the anti-cult ideology about “cults” and brainwashing, a pseudo-scientific theory


  1. FECRIS spread false information


  1. FECRIS supports totalitarian regimes


  1. FECRIS has been involved in violence


  1. FECRIS actively promotes a gatekeeping strategy against the most senior scholars of new religious movements, labeled “cult apologists.”

Photo : Controversial FECRIS Vice President Alexander Dvorkin – commons.wikimedia.org

Further reading about FORB in Europe on HRWF website

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