Christians Facing More Persecution

Anglican Journal, November 2014 | Go to article overview

Christians Facing More Persecution


ISIS/ISIL in Iraq and Syria; Boko Haram in Nigeria; Kim Jong-un in North Korea; the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt--these are all players in a worsening world pattern of persecution targeting Christians as well as other religious and ethnic groups.

The calamitous plight of the uprooted faithful in the Middle East may currently be the most media-documented example of animosity against Christians, but practically anywhere on the planet, the followers of Jesus are the likeliest to be persecuted for their religion, according to the Washington-based Pew Research Center.

Christians face religious oppression in 151 countries.

And in findings from the Netherlands-based Open Doors, an evangelical Chris-tia group that monitors the oppression of Christians worldwide and facilitates the practice of their faith, number one in the top 10 of today's persecuting nations is North Korea--for the 12th consecutive year.

"An estimated 70,000 of North Korea's several hundred thousand Christians are currently consigned to labour camps for their faith," says Paul Estabrooks, a spokesperson for Open Doors Canada.

North Korea is followed by Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Maldives, Iran and Yemen, where persecution of Christians is driven largely by Islamic extremism. With heart-wrenching images of thousands of Christian, Yazidi, Shia and Turkmen families fleeing ISIS jihadists seeking to establish a Sunni Muslim caliphate, northern Iraq and Syria have recently dominated the world's television screens, provoking pity and alarm. According to UN estimates, at least 400,000 people have been forced out of their homes since ISIS forces swept across the Syrian border into Iraq in June. Many have been killed, raped or abducted. Churches, sacred monuments, tombs and documents have been destroyed.

According to Nina Shea, director of the Center for Religious Freedom at Washington's Hudson Institute, "Christians are being systematically eradicated from the region."

In late July, France offered asylum to Christians expelled from the city of Mosul, home to one of the Middle East's oldest Christian communities.

In early August, several U.K. Anglican bishops argued that, given its participation in the destabilizing 2003 Iraq war that opened the door to Islamist extremists, Britain has a responsibility to grant prompt sanctuary to Mosul Christians after militants threatened them with execution, ruinous taxation or forced conversion.

Before the U.S.-led invasion that left the north vulnerable to radical jihadis, Iraq was home to about 1.5 million Christians (5 per cent of the population), who had lived there for almost 2,000 years. Since then, the Christian population has hemorrhaged out of Iraq, as elsewhere in the regional cradle of Christianity.

"In a sense, the current situation is only the latest in a long series of bloody attacks on Assyrian Christians, except this time it appears that in many places they have been permanently wiped off the map," says Archdeacon Bruce Myers, the Anglican church's co-ordinator for ecumenical and interfaith relations. …

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