JIHADISTS and nationalists are driving increased persecution of Christians around the world – according to a report unveiled on Wednesday, reports William Kelly of www.thecatholicnetwork.co.uk
Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) launched Persecuted and Forgotten? A Report on Christians oppressed for their Faith 2020-22, which includes information from ACN’s global contacts and other local sources, as well as providing first-hand testimony and compiling incidents for countries of key concern.
The UK launch took place in the Houses of Parliament where Bishop Jude Arogundade of Ondo, whose diocese in Nigeria was targeted by gunmen who killed more than 40 people at a packed Sunday service in June, gave the keynote address.
“The UK wields a lot of influence in Nigeria, and the best thing you can do is to declare your presence, because this tells people that you are aware, and we are ready to do something. That speaks volumes,” said Bishop Ondo.
“Many of those behind the persecution in Nigeria come to the UK to use your medical and other facilities, but then go back home and use force to enslave, maime and persecute innocent people. By being bold enough to speak out you can help bring the kind of change our country needs.”
Fiona Bruce, MP for Congleton, also echoed the request of Bishop Ondo for UK Catholics to become involved with the work of ACN.
Mrs Bruce, who is Vice-Chair of the All-Party Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief, warned that: “Militant non state actors are on the increase, there has been an increase in religious nationalism, and the misuse of technology is a huge, huge issue across the world.
“We we can all play a part preventing this and make a difference in the lives of people who are trafficked, ransomed, beaten, tortured, killed simply for what they believe.
“What can you do? Please, please contact your local MP and ask them to get involved with the work being done by ACN and the all-party group,” said Mrs Bruce.
The Papal Nuncio also sent a message of support and appreciation to Aid to the Church in Need for continuing to highlight the persecution of Christians around the world.
“May the Lord inspire, sustain and bless your commitment, and open the hearts of so many benefactors to understand the contribution ACN makes in the world to alleviate the immense suffering we often ignore, and help build a more just and fraternal humanity”, said Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti.
Persecuted and Forgotten? found that in 75 percent of the 24 countries surveyed, oppression or persecution of Christians has increased.
Africa saw a sharp rise in terrorist violence from non-state militants – with more than 7,600 Nigerian Christians reportedly murdered between January 2021 and June 2022.
In May 2022 a video was released showing 20 Nigerian Christians being executed by Islamist terror group Boko Haram/ISWAP.
In Asia, state authoritarianism led to worsening oppression, which Persecuted and Forgotten? found was at its peak in North Korea, where religious belief and practice are routinely and systematically repressed.
Religious nationalism has triggered increasing violence against Christians in the region, with Hindutva and Sinhalese Buddhist nationalist groups active in India and Sri Lanka respectively. Authorities have arrested believers and stopped church services.
India saw 710 incidents of anti-Christian violence between January 2021 and the start of June 2022, driven in part by political extremism.
During a mass rally in Chhattisgarh in October 2021, members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) applauded as right-wing Hindu religious leader Swami Parmatmanand called for Christians to be killed.
The report found that in the Middle East a migration crisis threatened the survival of some of the world’s oldest Christian communities.
In Syria, Christians plummeted from 10 percent of the population to less than 2 percent – falling from 1.5 million just before the war began to around 300,000 today.
Despite a slower rate of exodus in Iraq, the Christian community – numbering around 300,000 before the 2014 invasion by Daesh (ISIS) – had halved to 150,000 by Spring 2022.
Persecuted and Forgotten? also found that in countries as diverse as Egypt and Pakistan, Christian girls are routinely subject to systematic kidnapping and rape.
Report author John Pontifex said: “Persecuted and Forgotten? provides first-hand testimony and case studies proving that in many countries Christians are experiencing persecution – let us do all that we can do to show that they are not forgotten.”
- To sign the petition linked to the report, calling on the UK Government to demand the Nigerian authorities step up action to stop terrorist violence against Christians, visit www.acnuk.org/petition-2022
Aid to the Church in Need is a Pontifical Foundation directly under the Holy See. As a Catholic charity, ACN supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in need through information, prayer, and action.