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  • Knox Thames

2023 Predictions and Trends


Three possible trends relating to freedom of religion or belief in 2023:

Haters Gonna Hate, Swing States, and Silver Linings.

Haters Gonna Hate: Shocking levels of persecution will continue in Afghanistan, Burma, and China. These negative trends will only worsen. The Taliban will continue to force their religious ideology over the country, with dire implications for women and minorities. International protests aren’t working with the Taliban, which is also true for China. Consequences are required to change their cost/benefit analysis. Time will tell if new trade sanctions alter Chinese behavior. More voices are needed. While Muslim-majority countries have partnered with North America and Europe over Rohingya persecution, they have muted their concerns towards Afghanistan and China on human rights. Will they finally step forward in 2023?


Swing States: The push to amend Ukraine’s religion law to prevent Russian influence (or worse) through the Moscow Patriarchate Orthodox Church could violate international standards if overly broad. The relative calm for Pakistani religious minorities may end, as the government will increasingly reap what it sowed in Afghanistan as terrorist attacks increase. Christians and religious minorities are easy targets. And with elections this year, unscrupulous politicians may scapegoat groups like Ahmadi Muslims to steer attention away from failed policies.


In that regard, elections are always fraught for minorities, and several will occur in 2023. For instance, Indian elections to the Rajya Sabha and nine state legislative assemblies provide opportunities for extremists to use democracy to target religious minorities, such as Muslims and Christians. In addition, the outcome of the Nigerian and Turkish presidential elections will have long-term implications for their nations and their regions.


Silver Linings: Not all the news is terrible. Possible bright spots include Ukraine’s battlefield successes continuing, liberating occupies territory. The UN played more of its moral oversight role in 2022, with nations using its mechanisms to highlight Russian and Iranian oppression. More of that could come in 2023. And despite severe human rights problems in Saudi Arabia, the country could move forward in new ways if it establishes relations with Israel and gives non-Muslims greater worship freedoms.


Lastly, if Brazil fulfills its pledge to host a ministerial meeting on FoRB, it would become the first global south nation and the first non-conservative government to host. Hopefully, the new Lula administration will follow through, as their hosting would emphasize the importance of the issue right, left, and center.


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