One third of the world suffers from religious persecution, and Christians as the most persecuted of religious groups, are at risk of disappearing. These are were among the grim conclusions of a report commissioned by British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt on the extent of global anti-Christian persecution.
The Anglican Bishop of Truro, the Right Rev. Philip Mounstephen, who conducted the independent review at the request of the government, found that “evidence shows not only the geographic spread of anti-Christian persecution, but also its increasing severity. In some regions, the level and nature of persecution is arguably coming close to meeting the international definition of genocide, according to that adopted by the UN.”
Drawing on research conducted by Pew Research, and the NGOs Aid to the Church in Need and Open Doors, the report found that “the eradication of Christians and other minorities on pain of ‘the sword’ or other violent means was revealed to be the specific and stated objective of extremist groups in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, north-east Nigeria and the Philippines.“
In certain parts of the world, Christianity is at risk of disappearing altogether, the report stated, as the “main impact of such genocidal acts against Christians is exodus.”
Evidence of a dwindling Christian presence includes, is most evident in the Middle East, where the report noted that Christianity is in danger of being wiped out “where its roots go back furthest”:
In Palestine, Christian numbers are below 1.5 percent33; in Syria the Christian population has declined from 1.7 million in 2011 to below 450,00034 and in Iraq, Christian numbers have slumped from 1.5 million before 2003 to below 120,000 today.35 Christianity is at risk of disappearing, representing a massive setback for plurality in the region.
Anti-Christian persecution is global in reach, as the report noted the following instances of persecution and discrimination against Christians around the world:
- The bombing of churches in Egypt, Pakistan and Indonesia
- State militaries attacking minority Christian communities in Myanmar and the Sudan
- The torture of Christians in North Korean and Eritrean prisons and the beatings of Christians in policy custody in India
- Mob violence against Christians in the states of Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Telangana
- Social persecution and lack of freedom of religion in North Korea, Saudi Arabia, the Maldives, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and China.
- Blasphemy legislation in Pakistan, Indonesia and Iran
- Religious extremism involving the attack on Christian minorities in India, Myanmar, China, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan
“Given the scale of persecution of Christians today, indications that it is getting worse and that its impact involves the decimation of some of the faith group’s oldest and most enduring communities, the need for governments to give increasing priority and specific targeted support to this faith community is not only necessary but increasingly urgent,” read the initial report. A full report is expected to be presented by the end of June.