Christianity is the world’s largest religion. As of 2015, Christian has approximately 2.3 billion followers and the numbers have increased since the numbers were released two years ago. However, many Christians living in violence-ridden countries or under authoritarian regimes have reported numerous accounts of persecution. As of 2016, close to 600,000 Christians have suffered some form of persecution of faith, while almost 100,000 Christians have been killed for their faith in the past two years.
Persecuted and Forgotten? is a report written by researchers affiliated to the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need that details the persecution of Christians in thirteen countries between 2015 and 2017. They found that twelve out of the thirteen countries showed signs of worsening persecution. In addition, they discovered that the main causes of the rise in violence are: the displacement of Christians, the political consequences of destabilization, and the loss of morale among the Church communities.
The report found that due to the increased extremist-Islamic violence, Christians in the Middle East are fleeing. In Iraq, more than half of the country’s Christian population has become refugees and predicts that by 2020, the Iraqi-Christian community will be completely wiped out. Similarly, the city of Aleppo in Syria has seen a rapid decrease in Christian citizens. Aleppo once housed approximately 1.2 million Christians, making the city the largest Christian community in the Middle East. However, by March of 2016, Chaldean Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo claimed that the number of Christians in Aleppo has declined to 500,000 in the past five years and will continue to decline. One short year later, only 35,000 Christians remain in Aleppo. “If the Christian organization and other institutions had not filled the gap, the Christian presence could already have disappeared in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East,” claims the reporters of Persecuted and Forgotten?
In other parts of the world, namely India, China, North Korea, and Nigeria, Christians are facing increased intolerance and violence. In Northern Nigeria, Christians are suffering from an on-going genocide led by the terrorist group, Boko Haram. The rumored ISIS-affiliated groups claims that their campaign of violence is meant to ensure that the faithful “will not be able to stay” in Nigeria. One diocese in Kafachan described that within the last five years, 988 people have been killed, and 71 Christian villages have been destroyed. Meanwhile, Christians in Asia are experiencing similar occurrences. The authoritarian Chinese government has increased their intolerance of the Christian religion. New laws are forcing Christians to conform to the communist ideals. In addition, clergy are routinely arrested by Chinese authorities and more than 2,000 churches were demolished in the coastal provinces. In India, Christians are suffering from increased violence and oppression as a result of increased Hindu nationalism due to the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who took power in 2014. Lastly, Christians in North Korea suffer “unspeakable atrocities”. For example, North Korean Christians have reported to have suffered enforced starvation, abortions, crucifixion over fires and have witnessed fellow Christians being crushed by a steamroller. John Pontifex, an editor of the Persecuted and Forgotten? report, claims that “in terms of the numbers of people involved, the gravity of the crimes committed and their impact, it is clear that the persecution of Christians is today worse than at any time in history.”
As the humanitarian crisis drags on, many dioceses feel as though the international community has forgotten them. Although the international community has confirmed that Christian genocides are taking all over the world, Western governments and the United Nations have collectively failed to offer persecuted Christians the emergency help they needed when the genocides first began. During a speech at an event at the House of Lords, Archbishop Issam John Darwish, a persecuted Melkite bishop of Lebanon, spoke on the mass Christian exodus occurring the Middle East. He urged that Middle Eastern Christians find a way to return to their homelands while calling on the Western governments to stop facilitating the immigration of Christians from the Middle East. Similarly, Prince Charles of England called for the West to become more involved in stopping the Christian persecution after speaking with witnesses of persecution from the Middle East and abroad. “Clearly, for such people, religious freedom is a daily, stark choice between life and death. The scale of religious persecution is not widely appreciated.”
Although faced with such adversity, the Christian communities in these thireen countries continue to hold steadfast to their beliefs and the hope that they one day can live harmoniously with the people around them. Although they were initially driven out of their cities, villages, and homes, Christians continuously return in hope of a better and peaceful tomorrow.