“Persecution against Christians has worsened the most in South and East Asia,” notes a report documenting the growing oppression of Christians around the world.
South and East Asia is now “the regional hot spot for persecution,” states the new report by Aid to the Church in Need, a pontifical foundation providing assistance to Christians, “taking over that dubious honour from the Middle East.”
Church attacks in Sri Lanka and the Philippines reveal an “unholy trinity of threats facing Christians in South and East Asia,” the report declares, namely “Islamic extremism, populist nationalism and authoritarian regimes.”
The biennial 2019 report, titled “Persecuted and Forgotten?”, chronicles acts of harassment, violence, and discrimination committed against Christians from July 2017 through July 2019.
“Around the world, Christians are a favored target for violent militant extremists who operate without boundaries and who attack local Christians as a legitimate alternative to a direct strike on the West,” the report revealed.
Thus, while the international community “is running out of time if it wants to save Christianity in many parts of the Middle East” due to the devastating effects of targeted persecution by the Islamic State, Christians in parts of Africa are likewise “threatened by Islamists seeking to eliminate the Church,” the report found.
In his foreword to the report, Pakistani Cardinal Joseph Coutts noted that it is “an established fact that the most persecuted religion in the world today is Christianity, even though many people are not aware of this.”
“In recent years there has been a growing intolerance in society, aggravated by the growth of militant and extremist Islamic groups such as the Taliban and others affiliated to Al Qaeda and Daesh,” the cardinal observes.
Drawing on extensive fact-finding trips carried out by Aid to the Church in Need staff to countries noted for persecution against Christians, the 2019 report focuses on 12 countries of core concern for Christians suffering human rights abuses: Iraq, Egypt, Nigeria, Central African Republic, Sudan, India, Pakistan, Burma, Sri Lanka, China, the Philippines, and North Korea.
Again and again, the report declares, “in Egypt, Pakistan and elsewhere, Christian women suffer the most, with reports of abductions, forced conversions and sex attacks.”
“Across Africa, jihadist violence against Christians remained at critical levels,” the report states.
Ongoing violence and intimidation revealed “a concerted effort by extremists – drawing on considerable resources from outside the continent – to coerce Christians en masse into becoming Muslims,” it noted.
In Nigeria, in the north and the ‘Middle Belt’ region, militants continued a “reign of terror,” the report stated, adding that Nigeria stands out as “the country where the most Christians are killed, with a reported 3,731 slain in 2018.”
“The Islamist militia seemed immune to government security intervention,” it stated.
As bad as things are for Christians in Africa and the Middle East, persecution is even worse in Asia, the report found.
“Two of the most serious attacks against Christians carried out by Islamist militia in the reporting period took place in South and East Asia,” it said, recalling the double bombing of the Philippine Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, which killed 20 people and left more than 100 injured.
The Islamic State also claimed responsibility for Easter bombings of Christian churches in Sri Lanka on April 21, 2019 when 258 people were killed,” it said.