Two recent reports highlight the growing religious persecution around the world. Christians are the overwhelming majority of those persecuted on grounds of faith but governments are reluctant to react properly on religious oppression, while media downplay its severity.
One of the reports, released last week, was commissioned by Jeremy Hunt, Britain’s Secretary for Foreign Affairs, and chaired by Church of England bishop, Philip Mounstephen. An interim report was presented last week while the final version will appear in the Summer.
The Mounstephen report revealed an increase in the severity of anti-Christian persecution. Christians are the most widely targeted religious community in the world and acts of violence and intimidation are becoming more widespread.
“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.”, the report claims. This has been recognised by several declarations of the European Parliament, the UK House of Commons, the US Congress, and the Nigerian Parliament.
There are parts of Syria, Iraq, Egypt, north-east Nigeria and the Philippines where perpetrators clearly intend to eradicate the Christian communities. These are targeted by a vast scale of violence coming from extremist groups.
Commenting on the report, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said that the UK government has been asleep over this persecution but the attacks in Sri Lanka and this report have “woken up everyone with an enormous shock”. He said that politically correctness makes us forget that “the Christians that are persecuted are some of the poorest people on the planet.”
Bishop Mounstephen has called all governments to bring perpetrators to justice, to aid victims and to take preventative measures for the future.
The authors of the report remind us that the global persecution of Christians remains underreported in the Western media. Even recently, after the atrocious attacks against churches in Sri Lanka, some commentators have downplayed the pervasiveness of anti-Christian violence.
For instance, Colin Murphy in the Sunday Business Post queried whether Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world pointing out that more Muslims are victims of violence. That is true, but it is usually down to wars in Muslim countries. And even if Christians are not the most persecuted (contrary to the finding of the Mounstephen report), they are still widely persecuted and it is still underreported.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which is an independent US government advisory body, also issued a report recently about persecution of religious believers. It found that in China the Communist government “has been particularly pernicious toward religion and religion believers during the last 20 years, and increasingly so in recent years.”
For instance, between 800,000 and two million adult Uighur Muslims have been detained in concentration camps, relegating some of their children to orphanages. The repression of the underground Catholic Church has increased and the government has destroyed or closed down hundreds of Protestant churches. More than 5,000 Christians and 1,000 church leaders were arrested in 2018 because of their faith. In April the government banned online sale of the Bible.
The Commission made recommendations for United State policy which included: the development of a government-wide strategy for promoting religious freedom abroad, the preparation of action plans for specific countries, and the establishment of an interagency working group to oversee implementation.
Perhaps our own Government can look at something similar? Perhaps it should commissioned something like the Mounstephen report in Britain?