“Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world” – Catholic Outlook
Imagine being at your parish church this Sunday to celebrate the Eucharist. Just as your pastor finishes his homily, gunfire erupts from the back of the church. As you quickly turn around, you see several armed men firing their weapons at the assembly. And with added horror, you see many other parishioners lying dead. Amid shouts and screams, people rush for the exits, running for their lives. Some escape, others are shot and killed. The attackers then set fire to the church.
May this never happen to you. But tragic scenes similar to this, and other brutal forms of persecution, are happening to other Christians in many countries across much of the world.
In the just-released 2021 “More Precious Than Gold” annual report, the international ecumenical organization Open Doors reports that more than 360 million Christians live in areas where they are subject to high levels of discrimination and persecution.
The report further highlights that last year 6,175 Christians were unjustly arrested or imprisoned, 3,829 followers of Christ were abducted for faith-related reasons, 5,110 Christian churches or buildings were attacked and 5,898 others believers in Jesus were murdered for their faith.
The international Catholic relief organization Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) states in its 2021 report “Religious Freedom in the World” that over the past two years the human right to freedom of religion has not has not been respected in 62 countries. And in 42 countries, changing or renouncing one’s religious affiliation can lead to serious legal and social consequences, even death.
ACN reports that at least 75% of all religiously motivated violence and oppression is experienced by my Christians.
The ACN report adds that authoritarian governments have also intensified religious persecution. In some Asian countries with Hindu and Buddhist majorities, persecution against religious minorities has increased.
Many places in Africa reflect a worsening situation for Christians that is most often due to Islamist violence, says Fionn Shiner, press officer for ACN in the UK. (see: https://bit.ly/3RisBPf).
ACN, in its “Persecuted and Forgotten” report, states that “Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world”. He cites Islamist violence in Africa as a major cause of persecution. And this highlights that Nigeria is the sad country where most African Christians are killed (see: https://bit.ly/3Kw0KsI).
And regarding religious persecution in the West, Pope Francis coined the phrase “polite persecution” to describe how new cultural norms clash with individuals’ right to freedom of conscience, attempting to confine religion “to the closed enclosures of churches. , synagogues or mosques”.
Please reach out to your national and regional government officials to urge them to protect everyone’s right to freedom of religion.
Please also sign up to receive advocacy updates from Open Doors (see: https://bit.ly/2URRK5G).
Additionally, please support the efforts of Aid to the Church in Need to provide persecuted Christians with the financial assistance they need to survive (see: www.aidtochurch.org).
And let us remember regularly, in private and liturgical prayer, those who suffer for the Christian faith. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ. We cannot look away while they suffer.
Tony Magliano is an international Catholic columnist on social justice and peace. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish meetings. Tony can be reached at [email protected].