Christians Make up Most Persecuted Group in the World

In its report on religious freedom in the world, Aid to the Church in Need points out that five countries could see Christians disappear from their populations: Nigeria, Afghanistan, China, Iran and the Maldives.

Newsroom (29/11/2022 10:39 AM, Gaudium Press) The Pontifical Foundation Aid to the Church in Need launched on Tuesday, November 22, the updated edition of the “Persecuted and Forgotten Report: 2020-22,” a survey of Christians oppressed for their faith over the past two years.

Religious freedom is violated in nearly one-third of the countries on the planet (31.6%), where two-thirds of the world’s population, or 5.2 billion people, live. The worst violations occur in some of the world’s most populous countries, such as China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nigeria. The key findings of Persecuted and Forgotten? 2020-22 are:

In 75% of the countries under analysis, oppression or persecution of Christians has increased.

In Africa, the situation for Christians has worsened in all countries under review, with evidence of a large increase in genocidal violence by non-state militant participants, including jihadists.

Indeed, jihadism is one of the causes why Nigeria is on the verge of becoming a failed state, with kidnappings, arrests of priests, and deadly attacks on churches increasingly frequent. According to analysis by the International Society for Civil Liberties and the Defense of Law, between January 2021 and June 2022, more than 7,600 Christians have been killed.

However, extremist groups are not the only problem on the continent and the actions of states have negatively affected African Christians. Both the Eritrean and Ethiopian army have attacked clergy and church buildings in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. The Eritrean army is accused of an ethnically motivated “cultural cleansing” campaign, allegedly participating in the massacres of Ethiopian Christians, such as the one in Aksum, and destroying monasteries and Church buildings.

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In the Middle East, continued migration has deepened the crisis, threatening the survival of three of the world’s oldest and most important Christian communities, located in Iraq, Syria and Palestine.

In Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, there is a lack of political resolve to uphold constitutional commitments to religious freedom. They still impose a ban on building churches, on public display of crosses and other Christian symbols, and on importing bibles and other Christian texts.

In Asia, state authoritarianism has been the critical factor causing increased oppression against Christians in Burma (Myanmar), China, Vietnam and elsewhere. The country where it is most serious that religious freedom and freedom of conscience are being strangled is North Korea.

In other parts of Asia, religious nationalism has led to increased persecution of Christians in Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, and elsewhere.

A certain persecution, called “diffuse”, is gaining strength. The emergence of new “rights” or cultural norms, enshrined in law, leads to a profound conflict between individual rights to freedom of conscience and religion and legal obligations.

The indicators strongly suggest that in the period under review, persecution of Christians has worsened in the major countries studied. Part of the problem is a mistaken cultural perception in the West, which continues to deny that Christians remain the most persecuted religion. In the words of Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, northern Iraq, “There are still people who are persecuted because of their faith… Yes, Christians are persecuted.”

Compiled by Angelica Vecchiato

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