Over the summer, stressing that suffering and hardship are “part and parcel” of evangelization and the authentic Christian life, Pope Francis urged the entire Church to “pray for our brothers and sisters who are persecuted and praise the Lord because, in spite of this, they continue to witness their faith with courage and fidelity.” International papal charity Aid to the Church in Need just released its biannual report on Christian persecution around the world, “Persecuted & Forgotten?” which documents the worst atrocities.
Christian persecution rises to historic levels
By John Newton
The persecution of Christians is worse than at any time in history, according to a new report being launched earlier this month.
The “Persecuted and Forgotten?” report concludes that the persecution of Christians reached a high water mark in 2015-17—with growing attacks on the faithful by ISIS, Boko Haram, and other extremist groups.
The new report, produced by the UK office of international papal charity Aid to the Church in Need, also identified growing problems in a number of Muslim-majority countries and authoritarian states, such as Eritrea and North Korea.
The Report’s editor John Pontifex said: “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.”
The report finds in the countries under review that many faith communities have suffered at the hands of extremists and authoritarian regimes; however, it concludes that Christians have experienced the most hostility and violence.
The report supports this claim with a series of examples showing the extent of the problems facing Christians in each of the 13 core countries it assesses in depth—as well as providing an overview of the state of religious freedom for the country’s various denominations.
“Persecuted and Forgotten?” found that members of China’s 127 million-strong Christian population have suffered growing persecution following new attempts to bring Christianity in line with communist ideals. More than 2,000 churches and crosses have been pulled down in China’s coastal Province of Zhejiang—and clergy are still being routinely detained by authorities.
During the campaign of genocide by ISIS and other Islamist militant groups in the Middle East, Christians were disproportionately affected by the extremists.
In Iraq, more than half of the country’s Christian population became internal refugees and Syria’s second city of Aleppo, which until 2011 was home to the largest Christian community, saw numbers dropping from 150,000 to barely 35,000 by spring 2017—a fall of more than 75 percent.
Despite national governments and international organizations having declared that a genocide has taken place, local Church leaders in the Middle East have said that they feel forgotten by the international community—which they claim is overlooking the needs of displaced Christians.
Extremism has been a growing problem in Africa—particularly in Nigeria where ISIS affiliate Boko Haram has displaced more than 1.8 million people.
In one diocese alone—Kafanchan—within five years, 988 people had been killed, and 71 Christian-majority villages had been destroyed, as well as 2,712 homes and 20 churches.
To read the Executive Summary of the 2017 “Persecuted & Forgotten?” Report, please visit www.churchinneed.org/persecution.
Aid to the Church in Need is an international papal charity, providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries. www.churchinneed.org (USA); www.acnuk.org (UK); www.aidtochurch.org (AUS); www.acnireland.org (IRL); www.acn-aed-ca.org (CAN)