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Over 200 million Christians worldwide in constant risk of persecution

By Sarah Mac Donald - 03 October, 2018

According to the Church in Chains Global Guide, the situation is noticeably worsening in India as Hindu extremists attack churches in rural areas every week and under President Xi’s religious clampdown in China.

A new report on the plight of Christians worldwide shows that persecution is getting worse.

The Church in Chains Global Guide, which was launched last week, lists 60 countries where Christians face persecution because of their faith.

It is an increase on 52 countries listed in the first edition of the guide, which was published in 2008.

The Global Guide divides these 60 countries into three colour-coded categories – severe (many or all Christians face persecution including imprisonment, torture, murder or violent mob attacks), significant (some, but not all, Christians face arrest, attack or serious restrictions) and limited (some churches or individuals face restriction or discrimination).

Since the second edition of the Global Guide, which was published in 2014, the situation has deteriorated considerably in the world’s two most populous countries.

In China, President Xi Jinping has tightened control of religion by introducing new laws and rigidly enforcing existing laws, as part of an overall policy of tightening control of the population.

In India, there has been a huge increase in the frequency of attacks on Christians in rural areas by Hindu extremists emboldened by the knowledge that no action will be taken against them.

The Church in Chains Global Guide lists Cameroon, Rwanda and Uganda for the first time, reflecting the spread of Muslim extremism in Sub-Saharan Africa.

One hopeful sign in the Muslim world is the engagement of some key religious and political leaders on the issue of religious freedom, notably the Marrakesh Declaration in 2016, which defends the rights of religious minorities in Muslim countries.

However, the Declaration does not deal with the crucial religious freedom issue of conversion from Islam and it is not yet clear what practical effect the Declaration will have throughout the Muslim World.

This new edition of the Church in Chains Global Guide was launched last week in Dun Laoghaire by Rev Trevor Sargent, who was recently ordained a Church of Ireland priest and is a former leader of the Green Party.

Addressing journalists, church leaders, supporters and a representative from the Department of Foreign Affairs, Rev Sargent commended the work of Church in Chains.

He said the third edition of the Global Guide provided an essential toolbox to begin addressing the often harrowing situation of persecuted Christians.

He hoped the Global Guide would be used by Christians in Ireland to pray for their persecuted brothers and sisters but that Christians would also write to the governments of countries where persecution is taking place.

He also expressed the hope that the Global Guide would be used in schools and pulpits and by politicians.

In his address, Rev Sargent said that while the Department of Foreign Affairs might state that it prioritises the promotion of human rights, including religious freedom, its overriding priority is Ireland’s national interest, which he said can mean that human rights can be overlooked if seen to be conflicting with the national interest.

He also noted that in many of the countries featured in the Guide, especially in the Middle East/North Africa region, there is a scarcity of natural resources, which he suggested could be a factor in the persecution of religious minorities.

The challenge of climate change meant the situation would not get any easier.

He concluded his address by quoting the 18th century Irish politician Edmund Burke, who said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

David Turner, lead author of the Global Guide, said, “The persecution of Christians rarely makes the headlines but is a weekly if not daily lived experience for millions of Christians worldwide.”

He estimated that over 200 million Christians are at constant risk of persecution.

“The situation is noticeably worsening in the two most populous nations on earth, as Hindu extremists across India attack churches in rural areas every week with impunity, while in China the authorities close churches every week as President Xi’s religious clampdown gathers momentum.

“It is time for people in Ireland to wake up to what is happening around the world and for the Irish government to put flesh on the bones of its oft-repeated commitment to prioritising freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) in its foreign policy by raising the issue of violations of religious freedom directly with the governments that are actively persecuting Christians or facilitating the persecution of Christians. This new Guide demonstrates the overwhelming need for action.”

In some countries there have been notable changes, resulting in recategorisation.

The situation in Egypt, Malaysia, Nepal and Tajikistan has deteriorated, while improvements have been noted in Colombia, Cuba, Kuwait, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkmenistan and Vietnam.

Church in Chains believes in religious freedom for all and supports the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and the EU Guidelines on Freedom of Religion or Belief.

Church in Chains recognises that persecution of Christians often occurs alongside the persecution of other religious minorities.

The organisation condemns any acts of persecution perpetrated by Christians – whether against other Christians or against members of any other religion.

The full report can be read here: https://view.publitas.com/church-in-chains/cic-global-guide-3rd-edition/page/1

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