At a digital press conference on December 9, 2020, the yearbooks were unveiled and responded to questions from journalists.

“Where religious freedom is restricted, people must fear for their lives”

IGFM presents the yearbooks “Religious Freedom 2020” and “Persecution and Discrimination against Christians

Frankfurt am Main, December 9, 2020 – Taking stock of religious freedom worldwide: on December 9, 2020, the International Society for Human Rights (IGFM) and the World Evangelical Alliance presented the 2020 Yearbooks Religious Freedom and Persecution and Discrimination against Christians during a video press conference.

The comprehensive yearbooks, which have been published annually since 2013/2014, are among the most important and comprehensive German-language publications on this topic. The current edition of the yearbook “Religious Freedom 2020” analyzes, among other things, the background to the conversion of the Hagia Sophia as a mosque as well as the persecution of the Bahá’ís in Iran, the Sikhs in Afghanistan and the Ahmadi in Pakistan. It also discusses discrimination against migrant workers and Christians in India, the rise of religiously motivated violence in Sri Lanka, and repression against religious minorities in China. It also notes that in India, Muslims are blamed for spreading the coronavirus.

Sample topics:

Muslims in India blamed for spread of coronavirus

Indian authorities blame Muslims in the country for the spread of the coronavirus. They announced, for instance, that more than a third of the country’s cases are estimated to be linked to the Tablighi Jamaat group, which held a large preachers’ meeting in India in March 2020. As a result, young Muslim men distributing food to the poor were attacked with cricket bats. Other Muslims were beaten up, driven from their neighborhoods, or attacked in mosques. In the state of Punjab, messages were broadcast over loudspeakers at Sikh temples urging people not to buy milk from Muslim dairy farmers because it was infected with corona virus.

Christian life to disappear from the public sphere in China

Even after the outbreak of the COVID-19 crisis in Wuhan, the persecution of Christians and the destruction of places of worship in the Republic of China continues. For example, on March 13, 2020, the cross was removed from a church in Guoyang County, Anhui Province. The Yearbook states that the Chinese Communist Party wants to ensure at all costs that Christian life no longer exists in public. These measures are also directed against Christians who publicly pray for an end of the pandemic. For example, Sun Feng from Zibo City was arrested in Shandong Province on February 7, 2020, for promoting nine days of prayer and fasting for an end to the coronavirus crisis on an online messaging service a few days earlier.

Persecution of the Ahmadi in Pakistan

With the constitutional amendment of 1974, the Ahmadi in Pakistan were officially declared non-Muslims and thus forbidden sectarians. Although they consider themselves Muslims, all statements in which they describe themselves as Muslims have been punishable since 1984. Thus, any expression of their faith falls under the criminal offense of blasphemy. This legitimizes state persecution; hatred and denunciations are legally supported and cannot be prosecuted.

Information about the yearbooks

Both yearbooks are published by the International Society for Human Rights, the International Institute for Religious Freedom and the working groups on religious freedom of the three German-speaking alliances, the German Evangelical Alliance, the Swiss Evangelical Alliance and the Austrian Evangelical Alliance. Prof. Dr. mult. Thomas Schirrmacher is the lead editor of the yearbooks. Both books are available together as a turn-around book with a total of 648 pages at a price of 12 euros through local bookstores but are also available for download as pdf.

Editor of the Yearbooks Prof. Dr. mult. Thomas Schirrmacher
Uwe Heimowski, Source: DEA.
Martin Lessenthin


Editor of the Yearbooks Prof. Dr. mult. Thomas Schirrmacher

Prof. Dr. mult. Thomas Schirrmacher, Editor of the Yearbooks Religious Freedom and the Persecution of Christians, President of the Council of the International Society for Human Rights (ISHR)

“For religious freedom, the litmus test is whether one grants the same rights that one demands for one’s own religion and worldview to all other religions and worldviews, indeed, even better, actively advocates for them.”

Uwe Heimowski, Source: DEA.

Uwe Heimowski, Representative of the German Evangelical Alliance e.V. at the Seat of the Bundestag and the Federal Government

“Religious freedom is a human right. Where religious freedom is restricted or reinterpreted, people must fear for their existence and their lives. Restrictions on religious freedom go hand in hand with restrictions on other civil rights and civil society institutions. For years, the Yearbook on Religious Freedom has never tired of pointing out these human rights connections.”

Martin Lessenthin

Martin Lessenthin, Spokesman of the Board of the International Society for Human Rights (IGFM), German Section e.V.

“Over the years, these two publications have become the standard works on the subject. They reflect the country expertise, in-depth human rights knowledge and decades of experience of the organizations involved. Through our network, we would like to continue to contribute to the protection of religious freedom worldwide as well as to provide information about religiously persecuted people.”

Thomas Schirrmacher and Martin Warnecke (eds.). Yearbook Persecution and Discrimination of Christians 2020. Studies on religious freedom vol. 35. Publisher for culture and science: Bonn, 2020. ISBN 978-3-86269-198-2. pb. 372 p. (turnaround book: 648 p.)

Note to editors:

The new Religious Freedom Yearbooks and those of 2015 to 2019 are available for download in german online at the URL: .