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A Solid News Peg For The Under-Covered Story Of Christian Persecution

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A Solid News Peg For The Under-Covered Story Of Christian Persecution

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(ANALYSIS) With all-important developments in the Middle East and Ukraine, it seems off-kilter to state that another major international story is being severely neglected and has long been so. But such is The Guy’s opinion about mainstream media neglect of the waves of evidence for ongoing global persecution of Christians, on which we now have a Nov. 1 news peg.

A previous GetReligion Memo addressed the plight of Armenian Christians within Islamic Azerbaijan.   That’s just one of many tragedies detailed in the annual “Persecutors of the Year” report for 2023, just issued by International Christian Concern

Yes, followers of other world religions also face inexcusable abuse in several nations. The parallel 2023 report produced last May by the federal government’s independent U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, which is also important to check out, emphasizes the plight of both Christians and other minorities in Iran but “sounds the alarm regarding the deterioration of religious freedom conditions in a range of other countries.”

But the scale is distinctive if, as ICC reports, “there are an estimated 200 to 300 million Christians who suffer persecution worldwide.” There’s corroboration of such a vast problem in the latest edition of the “World Christian Encyclopedia.

The overall global scenario warrants coverage, but many specific situations are newsworthy.

In ICC’s estimation, the world’s five worst individual persecutors today are Yogi Adityanath, the Hindu chief minister of India’s most populous state; Isaias Afwerki, Eritrea’s dictator; the better-known President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey; and atheistic communist dictators Xi Jinping of China and Kim Jong Un of North Korea.

Here’s the ICC list of the most bloodthirsty nongovernmental organizations: Allied Democratic Forces (Islamic State group affiliate operating in Congo and Uganda), Al-Shabab (al-Qaida affiliate in Somalia), ethnic Fulani jihadists in Nigeria, the five terrorist groups jointly disrupting Africa’s Sahel region, the Tatmadaw (Myanmar’s army) and the famous Taliban who again rule Afghanistan.

The ICC material from 50 researchers, half at Washington headquarters and half working overseas, shows that action against Christians is frequently linked with oppression of ethnic minorities and of political dissenters.

The report includes the following examples from the 10 nations it designates as the worst persecutors of Christians.

Nigeria: If a news shop wants to cover a single situation, ICC says this nation is “arguably the most dangerous place to be a Christian.” Between March 4 and July 6 this year, ICC tabulated the deaths of 549 believers in 55 attacks.

One Muslim group alone, Boko Haram, has murdered 38,000 Christians since 2011 as part of the ongoing “20-year genocide” that the government is unwilling or incapable of controlling. Also, farms are confiscated, millions have been displaced by the mayhem, students kidnapped and young Christian women targeted for forced marriages and conversions. See this collection of GetReligion posts on this topic.

North Korea: “Perhaps no country on earth is more closed to Christianity and the outside world.” The practice of Christianity is “incredibly dangerous,” so meetings must be strictly secret. Simply owning a Bible can bring death. “Rape, torture, and extra-judicial killings” are frequent in the vast prison system and believers there face especially harsh treatment.

India: Rising Hindu nationalism “poses a grave threat to Christians,” joining Muslims who’ve long been victimized — for instance under anti-blasphemy and anti-conversion laws. Organized and spontaneous mobs regularly attack individuals and worship services “with near impunity” from the government. The 600 hostile incidents logged so far this year set a record pace.

Iran: The Islamic Republic contains “one of the fastest-growing churches in the world” alongside suppressed political dissent. For 44 years the regime has sponsored waves of persecution, forbidding the open sharing of faith, barring Bibles in the Farsi language, spying on churches, arresting and imprisoning clergy, prosecuting converts and sentencing some to death under apostasy charges.

China: The estimated 70 to 100 million Christians are split between those in legally registered churches and those in growing “underground” fellowships that resist government controls. Persecution has flourished under Xi. In the past two years, an estimated 7,000 churches have been shut down in a crackdown on unregistered activity. Restrictions on Christian activity increasingly extend to Internet controls. Persecution of Uyghur Muslims continues, of course.

Pakistan: This “hotbed of persecution” involves growing “Islamic fundamentalism” that receives state sponsorship and is “visible at every level of Pakistani society.” Authorities use subjective blasphemy laws with their death penalty to make clampdowns seem legitimate and rouse popular vigilante fervor that intimidates Christians, who also deal with social ostracism and discrimination in education and employment. Women face forced marriages and conversions to Islam.

Eritrea: Africa’s “most repressive regime” targets Christians though they may form half or more of the population. The Marxist authorities pressure believers to renounce their faith and confine thousands in harsh prisons or cruelly kept in metal shipping containers. Clergy are among citizens held without charges, trial or legal counsel. A 2022 decree forced church registration under which only three Christian groups are now allowed to exist.

Algeria: The chief target within the small Christian population is the Protestant Church of Algeria, whose legality has faced regular challenges accompanied by the closure of dozens of its congregations. A blasphemy law is used to criminalize evangelism or anything deemed to “shake the faith of a Muslim.” This year has brought new raids and arrests for leaders of “house churches.”

Indonesia: Once a world leader in a tolerant Islam, and despite official promises, a vaguely-worded criminal code set last December establishes prosecutions against alleged blasphemy and evangelism. In some local situations, Christians are denied the right of building or repairing churches and open activities face extremist pressure. There’ve been six known incidents of harassment since last February.

Azerbaijan: As discussed in the aforementioned Guy Memo, efforts to rid the nation of ethnic Armenians and their culture, by definition, mean quite simply that the presence of Christians must be ended.

This ICC list bypasses an 11th nation, war-ravaged Ukraine. However, the ICC website reported on United Nations and Russian Orthodox Church complaints about a crackdown on the ancient Ukrainian Orthodox Church, historically tied with Russia but now self-defined as independent.

A Nov. 1 Moscow Patriarchate posting decries Ukraine’s “pogroms and seizures of churches and monasteries, expulsion of the theological seminary and spiritual academy from Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, against the background of searches, arrests and trials of bishops of the canonical UOC.”  Also, note this Pope Francis statement calling attention to government crackdowns on the monks of the ancient Lavra of the Kiev Caves.

There’s more. On Oct. 19, Ukraine’s Parliament gave first passage to a bill that would outlaw UOC operations and effectively favor its young, Europe-friendly rival, the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

This piece first appeared at GetReligion.org.



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