Home Christians Poll: Concerns over persecution grow; less is known about specific harms – Arlington Catholic Herald

Poll: Concerns over persecution grow; less is known about specific harms – Arlington Catholic Herald

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NEW YORK — U.S. Catholics have a growing concern about Christian
persecution around the world, according to results of a new poll released March
17 by Aid to the Church in Need-USA in New York.

Fifty-seven percent of U.S. Catholics said they believe
persecution of Christians around the world is “very severe,” up from
41 percent a year ago; and 67 percent said they were “very concerned”
about the issue, according to results of the fourth annual national poll on the
issue.

Almost 50 percent of U.S. Catholics said they believed half or
more of religiously based attacks around the world were directed at Christians;
they identified China as the country where Christians are most severely
persecuted, followed by North Korea and Pakistan.

However, “despite their growing awareness of the severity of
Christian persecution around the world and their increasing willingness to do
something about it,” low percentages of U.S. Catholics were aware of
“specific grave instances of persecution,” the results showed.

— Just 37 percent knew that in Pakistan in 2020, 1,000 primarily
Christian under-age girls were abducted, forcibly converted to Islam and
subjected to a life of slavery; and just 28 percent knew there were 293
incidents of Christian persecution in India in the first half of 2020 alone.

— Only 35 percent knew that in China Massgoers are subject to
digital surveillance, and just 36 percent knew that nearly 3,500 Christians
were killed for their faith in Nigeria in 2020.

— About 41 percent knew that being a Christian in North Korea can
carry the death penalty.

The survey showed that 52 percent of U.S. Catholics said Pope
Francis is “very engaged” on the issue of the persecution of
Christians — up from 47 percent a year ago; 30 percent think their local bishop
is “very engaged”; and 28 percent believe their parish is very
involved with the issue.

Pope Francis’ March 5-8 visit to Iraq put the spotlight on
Christian persecution in the Middle East. He went to pay homage to Christian
and other minorities persecuted for their faith but also to strengthen the
commitment of the overwhelming majority of Iraqi Muslims to creating a future
of peace and harmony.

The Christian population in Iraq numbered around 1.5 million in
2003. With the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 and, especially with the 2014 Islamic
State group takeover of the Ninevah Plain in August 2014, there are now 200,000
Christians there at the most.

A news release on the poll said it aimed to measure the extent to
which U.S. Catholics are aware of worldwide persecution of Christians as well
as:

— Countries and regions where they consider Christians are most
severely persecuted.

— Specific measures and policies they want the U.S. and other
Western governments to pursue.

— How much of a priority they feel Pope Francis, their bishops
and their parishes are making the issue of Christian persecution.

— Actions they believe they can and should take themselves.

When asked to rank their concerns about global issues, 67 percent
of U.S. Catholics indicated they were “very concerned” about the
persecution of Christians — up from 52 percent a year ago.

The percentages of U.S. Catholics very concerned about other
global issues were: human trafficking, 78 percent; the COVID-19 pandemic, 77
percent; poverty, 71 percent; climate change, 62 percent; and the refugee
crisis, 61 percent.

As for supporting groups that assist persecuted Christians, 61
percent of U.S. Catholics said they donated in the prior year to such an
organization; 39 percent have not made any such donation.

The majority of U.S. Catholics agreed it is important to be
engaged as a community with various initiatives that help persecuted Christians
around the world: 71 percent ranked prayer as “very important” to
help persecuted Christians, followed by raising awareness at the parish level
(67 percent, up from 59 percent a year ago); donating to agencies that help
persecuted Christians (62 percent, up from 53 percent); and contacting members
of Congress (57 percent, up from 52 percent ).

Sixty-five percent ranked diplomatic pressure as very important
to deter this persecution, up from 55 percent a year ago. Economic sanctions on
countries were considered to be “very important” by 62 percent of
respondents (up from 53 percent); 60 percent (up from 52 percent) favored
emergency asylum; and 55 percent (up from 48 percent) supported financial aid
for persecuted Christians.

“It is heartening that, compared to a year ago,
significantly more U.S. Catholics say that Christian persecution around the
world is very grave and that the issue has become a matter of concern to more
faithful. They also want both their church and their government to step up
efforts to do more to combat the issue,” said George Marlin, ACNUSA
chairman.

However, the poll also “shows the great need to inform the
public regarding specific instances of Christian persecution,” he said in
a statement. “The U.S. bishops and organizations like our own must step up
our educational and informational efforts.”

“It is my hope that leaders around the world embrace the
fundamental human right of religious freedom, and promote a society that
respects ethnic, cultural and especially religious diversity,” he added.

McLaughlin & Associates conducted the nationwide poll of
1,000 Catholic adults Feb. 19-26 for ACNUSA. All interviews were conducted
online; survey invitations were distributed randomly within predetermined
geographic units. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

The complete
survey findings can be found online at www.churchinneed.org/survey2021/christianpersecution.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021

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