This article by World and Culture Editor Dan Mountain is featuring in our Christmas Special Issue, ‘The Communion Manifesto’. Information on this can be found HERE.
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To many, the claim that Christianity is under threat may seem an odd concept. Both the world’s leading super, the United States, and the western world at large claim to be Christian. This coupled with the almost non-existent media coverage deceiving the casual observer that Christianity is as prosperous and influential as it has ever been for centuries past. However, beneath the surface, many of the worlds Christians face systematic persecution from armed groups and governments alike.
A report ordered by the former Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt came to some alarming conclusions. The Bishop of Truro, the Right Reverend Phillip Mountstephen, who led the report, stated that ‘evidence shows not only the geographic spread of anti-Christian persecution, but also its increasing severity’. Indeed, ‘In some regions, the level and nature of persecution is arguably coming close to meeting the international definition of genocide, according to that adopted by the UN’.
In fact, a number of research projects have collected a wealth of data highlighting this disturbing trend in international politics. The Pew Research Center discovered hostility towards Christianity reached a record high in 2012 when 139 countries forcibly discriminated against their Christian communities. In other words, nearly three quarters of the world’s nations callously torment Christians.
Horrifyingly, the Centre for the Study of Global Christianity estimates that over 100,000 Christians die every year as a result of forced persecution. That’s eleven every hour.
Meanwhile, according to the International Society for Human Rights, eighty per cent of global religious discrimination is directed towards Christians. Evidently, despite a number of respected institutions explicitly highlighting the international discrimination of a religious group reaching near genocidal levels, the media, political establishment, and civilised society in its entirety has remained silent in dealing with this issue.
In the African continent, accounts of abhorrent abuse is uncovered on a near daily basis. Recently, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Church leaders have been targeted and executed. On 22nd September 2018, dozens of Christians were massacred by extremist militia in the small town of Beni, North Kivu. Meanwhile, in nearby Nigeria, the Islamists group Boko Haram attempt to wipe out the country’s Christian community. Moreover, inspired by the radical ideology of ISIS, Boko Haram’s splinter group, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) similarly attempts to slaughter Christians in the poorest communities across the Sahel, while enslaving Christian women and girls in the process.
Across the continent, comparable acts of barbarism are frequent in Somalia, one of the worst countries to live as a Christian. According to an Open Doors 2019 report, ninety-nine per cent of Somalis are Muslim, and any religious minority is heavily discriminated against. However, life as a Somali Christian is particularly tough. Islamic militant groups such as Al-Shabab rule the ungoverned countryside, pursuing the country’s Christians with pitiless cruelty. Additionally, Sharia law is embedded in the country’s constitution. Thus, Christians are almost always persecuted with violence. Somali Christians often must hide their faith to protect their lives and their families. The Moroccan state equally persecutes its small Christian population, numbering just 31,500. Christian texts and materials written in Arabic are often confiscated. Heavy restrictions are also placed on evangelisation and on the obtaining of places of worship by Christians.
The African continent has a vast Christian population. However, a gradual development of xenophobia has emerged across the region which has been met by silence in the West and the larger international community.
It is not just Africa that has witnessed growing hostility towards Christianity. In Asia, the ruling Chinese Communist Party closed the Church network, Early Rain, and arrests pastors and closes additional churches that do not conform to its domesticated version of the faith. And in Sri Lanka, 250 were killed and 500 wounded as hotels and churches were targeted specifically by the extremist group The National Thoweeed Jamath (NTJ) on Easter Sunday 2019.
However, it is in the Middle East where we see the most terrible cases of anti-Christian persecution. The case of Iraq is particularly tragic. Since the 2003 invasion by US-led forces, Iraq’s Christian population has fallen by eighty-three per cent, from 1.5 million to 120,000. The Archbishop of Erbil, Rt. Reverend Bashar Warda stated that after 1,400 years of persecution, Iraq’s Christians now face extinction. Christianity in Iraq is ‘one of the oldest Churches, if not the oldest Church in the world, [and] is perilously close to extinction. Those of us who remain must be ready to face martyrdom’.
As a result of continuous sectarian violence which has plagued Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein, coupled with ISIS’ vicious pursuit to eradicate any faith which conflicts with their own warped doctrine has led to the decimation of a community which stretched millennia. The reverend later accused British leaders of failing to act to defend Christians in Iraq. Indeed:
Britain – along with other supposedly Christian countries – has abandoned Christian communities in such a desperate need of aid.
Unfortunately, political correctness is behind this abhorrent international persecution of some of the poorest Christian communities around the globe. Jeremy Hunt has stated that ‘there is a misplaced worry that it is somehow colonialist to talk about a religion that was associated with colonial powers rather than the countries that we marched into as colonisers’. Indeed, prominent US journalist John Allen Jnr., in his book The Global War on Christians, writes that anti-Christian persecution has now fallen between the left-right divide of the political spectrum in that it is too religious for liberals to campaign against yet too foreign for conservatives to campaign for.
Alas, the Christian plight has fallen on deaf ears. In the age of ‘woke’ culture and radical liberalisation, it appears that the most helpless and poorest Christian communities are suffering. In the UK alone, Christianity has transcended law, culture, and morality. We simply owe more to a faith that has given us so much. Even if one does not believe in Christianity, the needless persecution of peaceful communities deserves far more action than it is currently being given. Perhaps the Catholic Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, asks the right, yet painful questions: ‘Does anybody hear our cry? How many atrocities must we endure before somebody, somewhere, comes to our aid?’ Let us hope someone does.
Photo by x1klima on Flickr.