A February poll shows that although more than half of US Catholics are “very concerned” about the persecution of Christians around the world, the level of concern has significantly declined in the past two years.
The percentage of US Catholics who say that they are “very concerned” about global Christian persecution dropped from 58 percent in winter 2019 to 52 percent today—a decline of more than 10 percent. The percentage of US Catholics who think that Christian persecution is very severe declined 11 percent compared to a year ago, falling from 46 percent to 41 percent.
The 3rd annual nationwide poll examining the views of US Catholics on the global persecution of Christians was conducted by McLaughlin & Associates on behalf of Aid to the Church in Need-USA (ACNUSA), an international papal agency that supports suffering and persecuted Christians in more than 140 countries.
The softening of the level of concern about Christian persecution among US Catholics is also evident in their ranking of the importance of global issues. Global Christian persecution is ranked as less urgent an issue than human trafficking, poverty, climate change and the global refugee crisis. Catholics who identify themselves as being very devout are most concerned about the persecution of Christians, but even this group has ranked human trafficking the issue of greatest concern for three consecutive years.
Listing the countries where they believe the persecution of Christians is most severe, US Catholics identify Iran as the worst offending nation. North Korea, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are pegged, in descending order, as the next five worst-offending countries where Christians suffer grave persecution.
Asked to rank policies by the US government and other Western powers to help persecuted Christians, US Catholics say diplomatic pressure on offending countries is most important, followed by economic sanctions and emergency asylum for victims of persecution; almost half of US Catholics say financial support of persecuted Christian communities is important, while military intervention and the military training and arming of persecuted Christians are deemed less important.
As to actions US Catholics can take themselves, 68 percent of respondents ranked prayer as “very important,” followed by raising awareness of the plight of Christian persecution at the parish level (59 percent), donating to agencies that help persecuted Christians (53 percent) and contacting Members of Congress (52 percent).
Just over one-fifth of US Catholics say their parish is “very engaged” on the issue of Christian persecution, which is up by some 16 percent from a year ago. At the same time, 20 percent say their parish is “not engaged” and 22 percent say they are “unsure” about their parish’s level of engagement.
As to their local bishop speaking out on Christian persecution, 27 percent say the bishop is “very engaged” on the issue, an increase of 12 percent compared to a year ago. But 24 percent say they are “unsure” about their bishop’s level of involvement and 12 percent say their bishop is “not engaged” at all.
Regarding the Pope, 47 percent of US Catholics say he is “very engaged” on the issue of Christian persecution. But this figure is nonetheless down by 8 percent from a year ago, while 16 percent say they are “unsure” about the involvement of Pope Francis on the issue. Just 8 percent say the Pope is “not engaged” when it comes to the persecution of Christians.
“While 52 percent of American Catholics show strong concern about the persecution of Christians, it is nevertheless disheartening to see the drop in their number compared to a year ago,” said ACNUSA Chairman George Marlin, referring to the 10 percent decline in the number of US Catholics who say they are “very concerned” about global anti-Christian persecution. “It’s telling,” he said, “that US Catholics consider human trafficking, poverty, climate change, and the refugee crisis—as important as these issues are—to be more important than the persecution of Christians.”
“Two years ago, the genocidal campaign waged by ISIS against Christians and other minorities in Iraq and Syria had only just begun to decline,” said Marlin, “but memories of that atrocity have faded since then. This may well help explain the apparently lesser concern” about Christian persecution on the part of US Catholics.
“Sadly, receiving little coverage by mainstream media,” said Marlin, “is the plight of Christians in Africa, the persistent Islamist terror targeting Christians, particularly in Nigeria, but also throughout the Sahel region. Then there is the increasingly fanatical Hindu nationalism that threatens Christians in India and the ongoing repression of the Church’s freedom in China.” These hot spots of Christian persecution, charged Marlin, “must be put in the spotlight” to grab the attention of US Catholics.
“In light of the survey results, education at both the parish and diocesan level remains of crucial importance,” said Marlin, pointing at the significant percentage of Catholics who are either “unsure” about their parish’s or bishop’s engagement on the issue of Christian persecution, or those who say their parish and bishop are “not engaged.”
“The survey clearly shows that US Catholics believe that the Church in America can do much more when it comes to calling attention to the gravity of Christian persecution,” concluded Marlin, adding: “In a world where up to 300 million Christians are confronted with various forms of harassment and outright persecution because of their faith, the US Church simply must do more to inform and galvanize the faithful.”
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