Persecution of Christians by both totalitarian governments and militant non-state actors has worsened in at least 18 countries in recent years, a new report says.
“Indicators strongly suggest that persecution of Christians has continued to worsen over the reporting period in worrying core countries,” says the report, titled “Persecuted and Forgotten? A Report on Christians Oppressed for Their Faith 2020-22”.
Published by the Catholic group Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) on April 11, the report, which was submitted to the UK Parliament earlier this week, named Asia, Africa and the Middle East as the regions where persecution of Christians is worst is.
The report also partially blamed “a cultural misperception in the West, which continues to deny that Christians remain the most prevalent faith group,” for the deteriorating global situation.
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Examining “human rights abuses” in 24 countries where persecution of Christians is “of particular concern,” the report said conditions for believers in 18 of them “have worsened” in the past two years compared to 2017 or “slightly worsened” in 2019.
The watchdog identified “religious nationalism and authoritarianism” driving hostility against Christians and the offending nations, including China, Afghanistan, Turkey, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Mali, Nigeria, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Pakistan, Myanmar, Russia, North Korea, Vietnam, India and Qatar.
Conditions have worsened for Christians in every country listed in Africa, according to the watchdog, who noted that “militant non-state actors” such as Boko Haram and the Islamic State of West Africa province are primarily to blame.
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Nigeria in particular is on the verge of becoming a “failed state” because of jihadists, the report warned, explaining that an analysis between January 2021 and June 2022 killed up to 7,600 Christians in the country.
In his foreword to the report, Father Andrew Adeniyi Abayomi, whose church in Nigeria was attacked by gunmen at Pentecost, wrote: “The suffering church needs people to speak up for us. For the killing to stop, more organizations like ACN must proclaim the truth about what is happening to Christians around the world. If not, we will be haunted and forgotten forever.”
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The “oldest and most important Christian communities in the world in Iraq, Syria and Palestine” are also particularly at risk, the report continued, noting that the Christian population in Syria has fallen from 1.5 million to just 300,000 since 2011.
The main source of persecution in Asian countries such as China, Vietnam and North Korea has reportedly come from state authorities using arrests, forced church closures and draconian laws against believers. In North Korea, the report claims that “extreme persecution of Christians has reached the verge of genocide, with reports of murder, forced abortions and infanticide, and slavery.”
“China continues to harass and control Christians and members of other religious groups who do not accept the official line of the Communist Party, making it unsurprising that it has received the highest score of any nation-state in the Pew Forum Analytical Board’s Religious Restrictions.” “, says the report.
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“Religious nationalism” has also played a large part in the persecution of Christians in other Asian countries, such as Hindu nationalist groups in India and Sinhala Buddhists in Sri Lanka.
Open Doors USA, another religious freedom monitoring group, recently estimated that about 360 million Christians will live in countries where they are persecuted by 2022.
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According to the organization, more than 5,000 churches or Christian buildings were attacked last year and 4,765 Christians were “arrested, arrested, convicted or imprisoned without trial”.