Report: 416 Million Christians Live in ‘Lands of Persecution’

Men carry a coffin of a victim of the Sunday cathedral bombing after a funeral service held at the Virgin Mary Church, in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Dec. 12, 2016. Egyptians held prayers for 25 Christians killed the day before at a church next to the city's main Coptic cathedral in …
AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty

ROME — Global Christian persecution spread still further during 2021, according to the Christian charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

In an interview Thursday with Vatican News, ACN’s Italian director Alessandro Monteduro reported that currently, some 416 million Christians live in “lands of persecution,” where they are exposed daily to risks of harassment, discrimination, and violence because of their faith.

The year 2021 was “another year of pain of suffering” for persecuted Christians around the world, Monteduro said and for all those concerned with the right to religious freedom.

On the African continent, the suffering of Christian communities is worsening because of “a progressive radicalization and expansion of jihadist phenomena,” Monteduro stated.

Church members carry placards reading "self defence is now the answer" "the jihad will not work", as they take part in a protest against the killing of people by suspected herdsmen in Makurdi, north-central Nigeria, on April 29, 2018. - On April 24, 2018, at least 18 people, including two Catholic priests, were killed in an attack on a church near the state capital Makurdi that was blamed on herdsmen. Eleven ethnic Hausa traders were killed in Makurdi in retaliation. Thousands of people have been killed over decades in clashes between cattle herders and farmers over land and water, with the conflict polarised along religious and ethnic lines. (Photo by EMMY IBU / AFP) (Photo credit should read EMMY IBU/AFP/Getty Images)

EMMY IBU/AFP/Getty Images

“Across Africa, from sub-Saharan Africa to East Africa, there are at least a couple dozen terrorist organizations that have the ambition, from their point of view, to install caliphates in their territories,” he added, “such as Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad, Mali, Cameroon, or northern Nigeria.”

“In Burkina Faso, for example, a country that until 2015 only knew peaceful coexistence between the different communities and tribes,” he continued, “now 60 percent of the country is no longer reachable in order to help the populations on a humanitarian level, according to World Health Organization.”

Regarding Asia, Monteduro pointed out recent state harassment of the Missionary Sisters of Charity — the congregation Mother Teresa of Calcutta founded — who have been accused of proselytism.

The same thing has happened in other Asian countries, such as Myanmar, “where even in the last few hours there has been an anti-Christian attack with 35 dead,” he noted.

“It also takes place in Pakistan, where the terrible drama continues of the many young women and girls, kidnapped and converted by force, raped and forced to marry their kidnapper,” he said.

“These are all phenomena that unfortunately do not provoke an adequate outrage,” he added. “They are denounced by many charity agencies and church organizations, but there is insufficient outrage.”

“There is too much indifference to these tragedies,” he said.

Asked what he foresees for 2022, Monteduro warned of a further crackdown on Christians “if we are inattentive,” adding that there is a very real risk of “an increase in persecution out of hatred of the faith.”

ACN’s executive director Thomas Heine-Geldern similarly issued an end-of-year report on Christian persecution this week, in which he, too, noted the general worsening of the situation of Christians worldwide.

“We are saddened by the reports of religious persecution and violence that reach us almost on a weekly basis,” Heine-Geldern wrote. “Priests, religious and lay people are being killed, kidnapped or abused as they carry out their service.”

“In particular, the current situation in India and Nigeria fills us with deep concern and we are standing by should our assistance be needed,” he said.

“The situation continues to be quite dramatic in the countries of the African Sahel region and in Mozambique where terrorism is spreading,” he said, and “Christians are hardest hit.”

In Western countries, there has also been “a rise in the number of acts of violence against religious organizations as well as the rise of what Pope Francis calls ‘polite persecution,’” he stated. “It involves the gradual eradication of religious beliefs from public life under the cloak of supposed ‘tolerance.’”

“We are now preparing to face the emerging challenges of 2022 armed with our faith in God and confidence, whereby we understand confidence as a virtue that does not disclaim these fears and worries, but constantly seeks to find new areas to serve our mission,” he concluded.

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