It is so bad some countries may soon be without any Christians, as this story from Aid to the Church in Need reports.
In many countries the situation of Christians has sharply deteriorated. This is the finding of the report Persecuted and Forgotten? which was launched at a meeting in the UK Houses of Parliament on 17th October by the UK office of the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). The report examines the situation of Christians in 30 different countries, including Afghanistan, China, Laos, Pakistan, Vietnam and Zimbabwe. In particular it analyses the situation in a number of majority Islamic countries and in those states whose political systems have a pronounced authoritarian character. The reporting period covers the past two-and-a-half years.
The principal finding of the report is that in two-thirds of the countries where persecution of Christians is most severe, the problems have become arguably even worse. In fact the Church’s very survival in some parts – notably the Middle East – is now at stake.
For Christians the so-called “Arab spring” has in many cases become what the report calls a “Christian winter”. Although the political upheavals have brought suffering to people of all faith communities, nonetheless it is above all the Christian confessions that have experienced the most open hostility and violence. They have become victims of every kind of political, economic, social and religious conflict – for example the conflicts between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims. As a result, a great many Christians have been forced to flee. The report describes the exodus as reaching “almost biblical proportions”.
Aid to the Church in Need’s John Pontifex explained, “From all accounts, the incidents of persecution are now apparently relentless and worsening; churches being burnt, Christians under pressure to convert, mob violence against Christian homes, abduction and rape of Christian girls, anti-Christian propaganda in the media and from Government, discrimination in schools and the workplace… the list goes on. Persecuted and Forgotten? begs deep questions about the international community’s commitment to standing up for religious freedom.”
According to the information presented in Persecuted and Forgotten? the influence of fundamentalist Islamist groups has increased markedly in the past two-and-a-half years. They represent possibly the greatest threat to religious freedom in the world today. Their goal is the elimination, or at the very least the subjugation, of Christians. In communist countries to the efforts have increased to exert control over the Christian population. However, in these countries Christians tend to be persecuted above all on account of their contacts with dissidents and with the West, and not so much on account of their faith alone. In North Korea there is no official recognition of any religious activities, while those that are tolerated are strictly controlled. China continues to insist on asserting its authority over all Christian groups, especially over those not registered with the State.