Aid to the Church in Need report says, Anti-Christian persecution is “worse than at any time in history” and in many cases genocide and other crimes against humanity “now mean that the Church in core countries and regions faces the possibility of imminent wipe-out.
The report, titled “Persecuted and forgotten?” covers the years 2015-2017. Its contents are describing Christianity as “the world’s most oppressed faith community.” Anti-Christian persecution in the worst regions has reached “a new peak” and its impact is “only now beginning to be felt in all its horror.”
“In 12 of the 13 countries reviewed, the situation for Christians was worse in overall terms in the period 2015–17 than within the preceding two years,” said the report’s executive summary on released Oct. 12.
The editor of report John Pontifex commented that, “In terms of the numbers of people involved, the gravity of the crimes committed and their impact, it is clear that the persecution of Christians is today worse than at any time in history. Not only are Christians more persecuted than any other faith group, but ever-increasing numbers are experiencing the very worst forms of persecution.”
Facts and Figures:
China, Eritrea, Iraq, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Syria were ranked “extreme” in the scale of anti-Christian persecution. Egypt, India, and Iran were rated “high to extreme,” while Turkey was rated “moderate to high.”
The report’s ratings draw from analyses like the Pew Forum’s Social Hostilities Index and Open Door’s World Watch List, in addition to other factors and sources, including fact-finding trips.
Many Christians in the region fear going to official refugee camps, due to concerns about rape and other violence.
The Islamic State group and other militants have committed genocide in Syria and Iraq. While Islamic State and other groups have been defeated in their major strongholds, many Christian groups are threatened with extinction and would not survive another attack.
In northern Nigeria, the radical Islamist group Boko Haram has engaged in genocide against Christians.
In Pakistan, banned fundamentalist cells pose a great threat to Christians, but some charge that the government’s failure to crack down on these groups worsens the problem of violence. On Easter Sunday 2016 as many as 24 Christians were killed in targeted violence in Lahore. A faction of the Pakistan Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.
In India, persecution has increased since 2014, with the rise of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s right-wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. Like-minded groups frequently accuse Christians of forced conversion, a charge local Christian leaders strongly deny. An India-based Catholic group reported 365 serious anti-Christian atrocities in 2016, with 10 people killed and more than 500 clergy or church leaders attacked for their faith.
Some Christians have faced pressure to convert under threat of force, while others have been forced to take part in Hindu rituals and deny their faith.
In China, church communities face increased hostility. Authorities in some provinces have removed crosses from some churches and destroyed church buildings. In some regions, Christmas trees and greeting cards have been banned.
President Xi Jinping has depicted Christianity as a means of “foreign infiltration” into China and has advocated more state control and targeting of unofficial churches. There are fears that China’s 2016 announcement of categorization of citizens based on political, commercial, social and legal “credit,” will create a system that disadvantages Christians in a way similar to North Korea.
Christians in Egypt suffered a major suicide bombing attack in December 2016 and again on Palm Sunday in April 2017. Dozens were killed and more injured in both attacks, for which the Islamic State group claimed responsibility.
Saudi Arabia has come under criticism from western powers and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. However, President Donald Trump signed a $110 billion arms deal with the country, a deal which had been held up under the Obama administration due to human rights concerns. The Aid to the Church in Need report said sources in the country are supplying arms and finances to Sunni extremist groups including the Islamic State, known in the region as “Daesh.”
“Given that Islamist groups such as Daesh are likely to be heavily reliant on undeclared external sources for weapons and intelligence, there is an urgent need to step up action to stop all entities collaborating with them,” the report continued. “Persecuted Christians are among the many who stand to be beneficiaries of progress in this area.”
Archbishop Darwish said it is imperative to help persecuted Christians.
“When the Christian families who have turned to us need the very basics for daily life – food, shelter and medical care – how can we refuse to help?” he asked, lamenting a lack of aid from the U.N. and other humanitarian organizations.
Aid to the Church in Need’s efforts to report anti-Christian persecution and aid those persecuted.