Report: American Awareness of Christian Persecution Jumps

A crucifix is seen as Palestinian Christians pray in the Deir Al Lateen Catholic Church in Gaza City, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2006. Two West Bank churches were set afire early Sunday as a wave of Muslim anger over comments by Pope Benedict XVI construed as anti-Islam grew throughout the Palestinian …
AP/Khalil Hamra

Americans’ awareness of global hostility toward Christians made a leap forward in 2021, according to a survey released this week.

Most significantly, the poll revealed that 57 percent of U.S. Catholics believe the persecution of Christians around the world is “very severe,” up from just 41 percent a year ago, a jump of 16 percent.

Moreover, nearly 50 percent of U.S. Catholics recognize that half or more of religiously based attacks around the world are directed at Christians, and 67 percent say they are “very concerned” about the issue.

The fourth annual nationwide poll, conducted in February 2021 by McLaughlin & Associates for the Christian watchdog group Aid to the Church in Need-USA (ACNUSA), sought to assess — among other things — the extent to which American Catholics are aware of Christian persecution around the world, the countries and regions where they believe Christians are most severely persecuted, and specific measures and policies they want the U.S. and other Western governments to pursue.

For years, anti-persecution groups have lamented the widespread ignorance in the West of the extent and vehemence of global Christian persecution.

Apart from reports by Christian persecution watchdog groups, the abuse of Christians receives virtually no coverage from mainstream media, and most people are not privy to information concerning how Christians are hounded, incarcerated, assaulted, and killed across the world.

The pervasive ignorance is aggravated by outright denial of Christian persecution as if it does not exist. Despite the undeniable evidence of ongoing persecution of Christians on a massive scale, some insist that reports of such persecution are nothing more than whiny Christians looking for attention or, worse still, evidence of a “Christian persecution complex.”

The online Wikipedia resource has an entire entry devoted to “Christian persecution complex,” defining it as “a belief, attitude or world view that Christian values and Christians are being oppressed by social groups and governments.”

The article never asks if this oppression is actually occurring but starts from the presupposition that such a belief must represent an irrational “complex.”

This week’s survey suggests that the situation may be changing.

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

Still, there is a long way to go in educating the public regarding the extent and nature of Christian persecution around the world.

A major 2019 report titled “Persecuted and Forgotten?” revealed that “Christians are the victims of at least 75 percent of all religiously-motivated violence and oppression” around the world, asserting that the persecution of Christians today is worse than any time in history in terms of the number of people involved, the gravity of the crimes committed, and the impact of the hostility.

Global Christian persecution reached a record high in 2020, with over 340 million Christians facing “high levels of persecution,” according to the World Watch List 2021, published by Open Doors, a group monitoring the persecution of Christians worldwide.

One in eight Christians around the world experiences high levels of persecution and discrimination — far more than members of any other religion, the Watch List reported, while also providing an in-depth look at the 50 countries where it is most difficult and dangerous to be a Christian.

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