Persecution of Christians 'approaching genocide'
A major new report warns the persecution of Christians worldwide is spreading, increasing in severity, and has now reached levels approaching genocide – raising the risk of Christians being wiped out in the Middle East
The Bishop of Truro has carried out an independent review for Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt on the persecution of Christians. The interim report was released earlier this month (May). The full report will be released in June.
It found ‘widespread evidence showing that Christians are by far the most widely persecuted religion’ and that religious persecution is a ‘global phenomenon that is growing in scale and intensity’.
The report continued: ‘Research consistently indicates the Christians are the “most widely targeted religious community”. Acts of violence… are becoming more widespread [with] an increase in the severity of anti-Christian persecution.’
The persecution of Christians in the Middle East and Africa had reached such a ‘vast scale’ that it is coming ‘close to meeting the international definition of genocide’.
The report continued: ‘The eradication of Christians and other minorities on pain of the sword or other violent means was… the specific and stated objective of extremist groups in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, North-East Nigeria and the Philippines.
‘An intent to erase all evidence of the Christian presence was made plain by the removal of crosses, the destruction of church buildings and other church symbols. The killing and abduction of clergy represented a direct attack on the church's structure and leadership.
Release International, Open Doors, Aid to the Church in Need and Christian Solidarity Worldwide were invited to give evidence to the Bishop of Truro’s Review.
His report highlighted the findings of Open Doors that ‘approximately 245 million Christians suffer high levels of persecution or worse – 30 million up on the previous year.’
Open Doors CEO Henrietta Blyth described the report as 'grim reading', adding ‘It reinforces over 25 years of World Watch List research and is long overdue. It shows that many countries are denying their citizens the fundamental human right of freedom of religion or belief despite being signed up to the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
‘Open Doors urges the UK government to use its influence to exert pressure so that governments around the world make fundamental policy changes to ensure that Christians and other religious minorities are free to follow the faith of their choice.’
Release International CEO Paul Robinson welcomed the report: ‘This is a timely wake-up call to government that Christian persecution around the world is rising, worsening, and has reached the scale where it can no longer be ignored.’
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said, 'I asked the Bishop of Truro to deliver an independent, honest, unflinching and hard-hitting report. What he has delivered to me today makes for a truly sobering read. I thank him and his team for their hard work.
'The interim report comes just after the appalling attacks at Easter on churches across Sri Lanka, the devastating attack on two mosques in Christchurch, and most recently the San Diego synagogue shooting.
'There is nothing more medieval than to hate someone on the basis of their faith. That it is on the rise should shock us all.
'I look forward to seeing the Bishop’s final report in the summer, and identifying further specific steps the FCO can take to do more to address the fate of persecuted Christians around the world.'