There are many Pakistani Christian women like Aasiya Noreen who live in fear of the Blasphemy law in their country and the (potential of) abuse. (Photo: World Watch Monitor)
An illustration of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman on death row for blasphemy since 2010 (World Watch Monitor)

The 2017 Freedom of Thought Report, presented yesterday (5 December), should be alarming “to all who care about freedom of thought and expression”, as it shows “a pattern of regression on a global scale”, says its editor, Bob Churchill.

The report, published by the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) of which Churchill is the Director of Communications and Campaigns, shows that 85 countries have at least one law or symptom of “severe discrimination” against those who think or believe differently (“free thinkers”).

Thirty countries are guilty of “grave violations”, such as prescribing the death penalty for apostasy, or “religious instruction in a significant number of schools … of a coercive fundamentalist or extremist variety”.

This worst offenders are: Afghanistan, China, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brunei, Comoros, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Morocco, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Syria, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

All but two of these (Gambia and Morocco) also feature in the Open Doors 2017 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to live as a Christian.

In October Aasiya Noreen (better known as Asia Bibi), a Pakistani Christian woman who has been on death row for over seven years for blasphemy, was nominated for this year’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.