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On Holocaust Remembrance Day, many worry about violence against religious minorities

Posted May 8

Holocaust Remembrance Day honors the 6 million Jewish lives lost during World War II. It's also a time communities reflect on the ongoing atrocities committed against religious minorities around the world, which were outlined this week in the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom's 2016 Annual Report.

The report highlighted how the refugee crisis in the Middle East and Europe has stoked simmering historical tensions between faith groups. "This mass influx (of refugees) fueled an already-rising tide of hatred and violence targeting Muslims and Jews, particularly in Western Europe," USCIRF reported.

In the last year, a kosher supermarket was attacked in Paris and both Jews and Muslims were victims of vandalism, hate speech and violence.

"Despite the increasing police protection in places where European Jews congregate, the rise in anti-Semitism has produced an exponential rise in Jewish emigration from Europe, with immigration to Israel from France increasing from less than 2,000 in 2012 to nearly 8,000 last year alone," USCIRF reported.

Additionally, worldwide harassment of Jews hit a seven-year high in 2013, according to Pew Research Center. Jews were harassed in 77 countries in 2013, compared with 51 in 2007.

"Harassment of specific religious groups takes many forms, including physical assaults; arrest and detentions; desecration of holy sites; and discrimination against religious groups in employment, education and housing," Pew reported.

Modern anti-Jewish sentiment is troubling, because there is no clear source or solution, as a group of religion scholars wrote for U.S. News & World Report in 2015.

"Today's anti-Semitism differs from that of the 1930s. There is no single counterpart to Hitler. There is no one European government or leader fueling most of today's anti-Jewish acts," they noted.

In order to stop violence against faith groups, governments must protect religious freedom for all citizens and nurture respect for religion, the scholars argued.

"People must understand how much of Europe's tradition of monolithic culture and ideology — from yesterday's monolithic state religion to today's monolithic state secularism — breeds attitudes that view today's most pious adherents to Judaism, Christianity and other beliefs as the 'other' who are deemed appropriate targets for exclusion," they wrote.

Holocaust Remembrance Day marks the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and "corresponds to the 27th day of Nisan on the Hebrew calendar," according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. It was celebrated this year on May 5.

Email: kdallas@deseretnews.com Twitter: @kelsey_dallas

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