Persecution of Christians: A 21st Century Crisis

Christians throughout the world celebrated Easter this month. For many, that observance had to be done in silence and secrecy.

There are no spectacles in the Roman Coliseum featuring martyrs torn apart by lions, but the observance of the faith founded two millennia ago is facing more persecution in the 21st Century than in the age of the Caesars. Pope Francis, who heads the globe’s largest single Christian group, has stated that conditions are more dangerous now than they were in the earliest days of the religion.

Information disclosed in the latest World Watch List details the deadly plague of anti-Christian, and anti-religion in general, that infects Earth.

In places as distant as China, Iran, North Korea and parts of Africa, Christians risk their freedom, property and even their lives when they profess adherence to the teachings of Jesus.

Linda Bordoni reviewed the data released in the “World Watch List” for Vatican News. She found that 13 Christians are killed every day worldwide because of their faith. Christianity Today notes that every day, 12 churches or Christian buildings are attacked. And every day, 12 Christians are unjustly arrested or imprisoned, and another 5 are abducted.

The former Trump Administration noted that Christians were the most persecuted religion on the planet, where 83% of the world’s population lives in nations where an individual may be subjected to harassment simply because of the faith they subscribe to.

An Easter Sunday attack in 2019 in Sri Lanka resulted in 290 lives lost and up to 500 injuries.

Throughout China, churches and outward signs of religious institutions have been forcefully closed or eliminated. In Nigeria, according to Gatestone’s Raymond Ibrahim, Christianity is on the brink of extinction. “The ascendancy of Sharia ideology in Nigeria rings the death toll for the Nigerian Church… These nonstop Islamic attacks are causing the Christian population of the West African nation to plummet — to the point of extinction by 2043.”

Just being a Christian is illegal in North Korea. Christians in Iran are frequently imprisoned, tortured, or otherwise threatened.

In many nations, adopting Christianity is seen as an act of undermining the government. Conversion to the faith places believers in particular jeopardy.

Followers of Christ are not alone in their plight. Repressive governments see the practice of any religion as a threat to their total rule. A Pew Forum study released in November reported that religious persecution exists in the majority of the world’s nations, indeed, in 90% of them. China, perhaps the largest offender, runs concentration camps for the exclusive purpose of eliminating the Uighur culture and religion. It appears that the planetary cry of “Never Again!” is an empty promise.

That Pew study found that “The Middle East-North Africa region had the largest share of countries where Christians were harassed in 2018. Of the 20 countries in the region, 19 had some form of harassment targeting Christians (either by governments or social groups). Social harassment occurred in 15 countries, the highest share (75%) since the beginning of the study, while government harassment of Christians [has been] reported in 19 countries in the region…”

COVID-19 made the problem even worse, according to a UCA News review. “In many countries, Christians are denied food and pandemic-related health care assistance and support systems…Some of them even lacked the money to buy face masks and hand sanitizers.” China has reportedly doubled-down on its persecution in the wake of the epidemic.

The dire conditions faced by Christians hasn’t made headline news, despite the extraordinary numbers.

Frank Vernuccio serves as editor-in-chief of the New York Analysis of Policy & Government. 

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