Religious Persecution Continues to Grow

Largely ignored by most of the media, persecution of religious believers has reached dramatic levels in the past several years.  From genocide against Christians in Africa to concentration camps for Uyghur Moslems in China and Iranian crackdowns on minority faiths in the Middle East, freedom of faith is severely challenged across the globe. U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo notes that “Around the world, religious minorities are persecuted and stripped of human rights.”

According to an Open Doors analysis  “215 million Christians experience high levels of persecution in the countries on the World Watch List. This represents 1 in 12 Christians worldwide. North Korea is ranked #1 for the 16th consecutive year (since 2002). During the World Watch List 2018 reporting period: 3,066 Christians were killed; 1,252 were abducted; 1,020 were raped or sexually harassed; and 793 churches were attacked. Islamic Oppression fuels persecution in 8 of the top 10 countries.”

Gatestone Institute  by Raymond Ibrahim reports that events in Nigeria are particularly dramatic. He cites an analysis from the Christian Association of Nigeria which reveals that “Realistically speaking, Christianity is on the brink of extinction in Nigeria. ’”

While being a Christian is illegal in North Korea, identifying as one in Afghanistan or Pakistan is extremely dangerous.

In China, according to the U.S. State Department, Christian churches reported that increased monitoring has caused many churches to cease their normal activities. Authorities have arrested and harassed Christians in Zhejiang Province, including requiring Christian churches to install surveillance cameras to enable daily police monitoring of their activities. “An ongoing campaign of cross removals and church demolitions continues…During [2017], the government passed new laws…to govern the activities of religious groups. Religious leaders and groups stated that the…regulations would increase restrictions on their ability to practice their religions, including a new requirement for religious group members to seek approval to travel abroad and a prohibition on ‘accepting domination by external forces.’”

Christians are not alone in their suffering.

In Iran, according to Secretary Pompeo, Hundreds of Sufi Muslims are jailed for their beliefs. In a USA Today op-ed, he noted that “The religious intolerance of the regime…applies to the Sufi dervish community, Christians, Jews, Sunnis, Baha’is, Zoroastrians, and other minority religious groups simply trying to practice their faiths.”

As a major power, China’s actions must be seen at the forefront of any discussion of the global acceptance of religious persecution. According to the U.S. State Department, in 2018

“There continued to be reports the government tortured, physically abused, arrested, detained, sentenced to prison, or harassed adherents of both registered and unregistered religious groups for activities related to their religious beliefs and practices, including members of unregistered Christian churches (also known as “house churches”). Falun Gong reported dozens of its members died in detention.

“Although Chinese authorities continued to block information about the number of self-immolations of Tibetan Buddhists, including Buddhist monks, media reported on six self-immolations and one instance in which a man in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) committed suicide by slitting his throat…

“Multiple media outlets reported an increase in control over religious activities in advance of the 19th Party Congress …The government continued to cite concerns over the “three evils” of “ethnic separatism, religious extremism, and violent terrorism” as grounds to enact and enforce restrictions on religious practices of Muslims in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR), including Uighurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Hui, and Tajiks. In addition to the national Counterterrorism Law that addressed “religious extremism,” Xinjiang enacted a separate counterextremism law, effective April 1, which spelled out many of the behaviors deemed “extremist.”

While the issue of religious persecution has not been headline news, the reality of its role in the forefront of human rights violations cannot be denied.

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