A new report commissioned by British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt concluded that global Christian persecution is now so severe that it is close to reaching the international definition of “genocide.”
The study, overseen by Bishop of Truro the Right Reverend Philip Mounstephen, discovered that one in three people suffer from religious persecution, with Christians being the most oppressed of them all.
“The inconvenient truth,” the report reads, is “that the overwhelming majority (80%) of persecuted religious believers are Christians.”
Mountstephen said he was “truly shocked by the severity, scale and scope of the problem,” which he believes is threatening the global church on an unprecedented level.
Such is the enormity of the problem, the bishop said, that there is a very real threat to Christianity as we know it disappearing from the face of the earth.
Whether it is the removal of crosses as seen in China, the relentless violent attacks on believers as witnessed in Nigeria, or the widespread day-to-day intimidation of those who openly follow Jesus, the goal is clear: to eradicate the Christian community from society.
“The eradication of Christians and other minorities on pain of ‘the sword’ or other violent means” is of particular concern in countries where extremist groups roam the streets. The report highlights Syria, Iraq, Egypt, north-east Nigeria and the Philippines as examples where groups are showing “intent to erase all evidence of the Christian presence.”
“Evidence shows not only the geographic spread of anti-Christian persecution but also its increasing severity,” the bishop wrote, noting that the faith “is at risk of disappearing” entirely if we do not act.
Mounstephen also noted that the report itself became out of date when, on Easter Sunday, suicide bombers entered a trio of churches in Sri Lanka and detonated enormous explosions, causing numerous deaths.
This ghastly attack, along with the startling findings of this new report, has “woken everyone up with an enormous shock” to the reality of Christian persecution, Hunt said.
The report highlights the fact that just a century ago Christians comprised 20 percent of the population in the Middle East and North Africa. Since then, however, this has plummeted all the way down to 4 percent, or around 15 million people.
What makes it genocide?
The report notes that “in some regions,” the sheer “level and nature of persecution is arguably coming close to meeting the international definition of genocide, according to that adopted by the UN.”
According to the Office of the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, “genocide” is defined in Article 2 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948) as:
“..acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”
Common genocidal acts include, “killings, abduction and disappearances, torture, rape and sexual violence; ‘ethnic cleansing’ or pogroms” — all of these things have been perpetrated against Christian communities across the world and, therefore, this maltreated group meets the grim genocidal threshold.
Blind for too long
In his foreword to the interim report, Mountstephen said that the findings should “force us in the West to ask some hard questions, not the least of which is: why have we been so blind to this situation for so long?”
In addition to the clear lack of mainstream media coverage, Hunt noted that governments have been “asleep on the watch
“Political correctness” hampering efforts to help
Hunt, who commissioned the report on Boxing Day following developments in the case of Asia Bibi, expressed his concerns that “political correctness” was behind the lack of action taken on this most pressing issue.
“I think there is a misplaced worry that it is somehow colonialist to talk about a religion that was associated with colonial powers rather than the countries that we marched into as colonisers,” the Foreign Secretary explained, referencing the many Christian mission workers that were sent out during the British Colonial era.
Hunt noted that this element has “perhaps created an awkwardness in talking about this issue.”
“The role of missionaries was always a controversial one and that has, I think, also led some people to shy away from this topic,” he added, noting that “what we have forgotten in that atmosphere of political correctness is actually the Christians that are being persecuted are some of the poorest people on the planet.”
Adding to this, Mountstephens urged that it is “essential we now recognise that religion is a massive vulnerability marker for many communities worldwide.”
“The oft-cited Western mantra that we need to attend to ‘need, not creed’ disguises this fundamental fact,” the bishop concluded. “Put simply, your creed might put you in much greater need, and we cannot be blink to that.”
Trump administration pressed to combat the issue
Earlier this week, The United States Commission on Religious Freedom released its annual report, which featured a damning analysis of many countries that continue to insist on violating their citizens’ freedom to religious expression.
Published on April 29, the 2019 sprawling report also contained a plethora of policy recommendations for the United States government on how it should approach the worst offenders.
“Our goal is not only to call out the offenders, but to provide concrete actions for the U.S. government to take in working with these countries to get off our lists,” said USCIRF Chair Tenzin Dorjee, according to a press release.
The list includes Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan — all of which are governed by administrations who are determined to restrain freedom of worship in accordance with their own overarching religious belief systems or ideologies.
Pointing to the increase in Islamic fundamentalism and subtly referencing the case of Asia Bibi, Dorjee noted that no person should feel they are at risk for expressing their religious faith.
He also noted that governments who crack down on religious minorities must be held accountable by the United States — which is seen globally as a country that enshrines core constitutional values of religious freedom in society.
“The freedom to believe as one’s conscience dictates is a fundamental human right,” Dorjee said, noting that it is also “vital to the security, stability and economic vitality of any state or region.”