There has been increasing persecution and oppression of Christians in at least 18 countries of the world in the last three years as a result of jihadism and nationalism, a report has said.
A group, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), based in the United States, said in the report recently released that the countries are majorly in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
The countries include, Syria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mozambique and Pakistan.
Others are North Korea, Vietnam, India, Russia, Myanmar and Qatar.
The report, signed by CAN Chairman, George Marlin and Executive Director, Boghjalian, is titled, “Persecuted and Forgotten: A Report of Christians Oppressed for their Faith 2020-22.”
ACN is a Catholic charity serving the pastoral and humanitarian needs of the persecuted and suffering church. It protects, nurtures and rebuilds Christian communities wherever they are persecuted or oppressed.
The group examined human rights violations against Christians in 24 countries where it is difficult to be a Christian.
The group concluded that compared to 2017 to 2019, persecution of Christians worsened or slightly worsened in 18 out of the 24 countries reviewed.
According to the Executive Summary of the report, “in 75 percent of countries surveyed, the oppression or persecution of Christians increased.”
The report said African countries recorded a rise in terrorist activities from non-state actors, with over 7,600 Christians reportedly killed in Nigeria between January 2021 and June 2022.
It also stated that in May, a video was released showing 20 Christians being executed by Islamic sects, Boko Haram and Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP).
“In Africa, the situation of Christians worsened in all countries reviewed and evidence of a sharp increase in genocidal violence from militant non-state actors, including Jihadist,” the report noted.
ACN said Christians across Africa face the threat of rising Islamic extremism. Two groups in Nigeria, Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province, each of which has a governing structure, the report further stated, are still trying to establish caliphates in the Sahel region.
It also said, “Taking a hard-line Salafijihadist stance, the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) banned music and parties, and heavily regulated social events like weddings.
“In June 2021, ISGS fighters executed five Christian civilians seized at a roadblock between Gao, Mali, and Niamey, Niger.
“In Mozambique, Al-Shabab stepped up its terror campaign, killing Christians, attacking Christian villages and burning down churches. The group is affiliated to Daesh (ISIS), which claimed responsibility for the March 2021 attack on Palma, north-east Mozambique.10
“Jihadism is one reason why Nigeria teeters on the brink of becoming a failed state, with kidnappings, priests killed and deadly attacks on churches becoming increasingly regular.”
On the situation in the Middle East, the report said, “In the Middle East, continuing migration deepened the crisis threatening the survival of three of the world’s oldest and most important Christian communities located in Iraq, Syria and Palestine.”
“Paradoxically, there are signs that in parts of the Middle East, Christians are in a worse situation than during the Daesh (ISIS) occupation. Evidence came to light showing the threat to the survival of some of the world’s oldest Christian communities had significantly deepened. The decline is most marked in Syria where, within a decade, Christians have plummeted from 1.5 million (10 percent of the population) in 2011, before the war began, to perhaps 300,000 (less than two percent of the population).
“In the aftermath of the August 4, 2020 Beirut explosions, where the greatest impact was felt in the Christian quarter, Lebanon’s Church leaders questioned the community’s long-term survival.
“In Iraq, where the rate of exodus is much slower, the community is down from perhaps 300,000 before the 2014 Daesh invasion, to as few as 150,000 in Spring 2022.”
ACN said its research showed that in parts of Iraq where Christians had been a strong minority, such as the capital Baghdad, the community is a shadow of itself, with churches struggling to stay open.
The report further stated that “In Asia, state authoritarianism has been the critical factor causing worsening oppression against Christians in Burma (Myanmar), China, Vietnam and elsewhere.
“At its worst, freedom of religion and conscience is being strangled, as in North Korea.
“Elsewhere in Asia, religious nationalism has caused increasing persecution of Christians in Afghanistan, India, Pakistan and elsewhere.”
It stressed, “In varying degrees, from tightening constraints in Vietnam to an almost total ban in North Korea, state authoritarianism restricts – or even strangles – believers’ ability to worship freely.
“While government attempts to regulate religious believers’ practice of their faith are not unique to the region, they are characteristic of a number of countries in Asia.
“China continues to harass and attempt to control Christians and members of other religious groups that will not accept the official Communist Party line – making it unsurprising that in the Pew Forum’s analysis of authorities’ restrictions on religion it achieved the highest score of any nation state.
“In Burma, the army has renewed attacks on Christians, following a lull during Aung San Suu Kyi’s administration. Despite the junta’s previous promotion of Buddhism as the country’s social norm, they are now targeting pagodas as well as churches, as they attack anyone perceived to oppose their 2021 coup.”
ACN has since presented the report to the Houses of Parliament in the United Kingdom with a keynote address by Bishop Jude Arogundade of Nigeria. Arogundade belongs to the Diocese of Ondo.
Christian watchdog, Open Doors, in its report presented earlier in the year, said at least 5,898 Christians were killed, 5,110 churches attacked or closed, 6,175 Christians arrested without trial and 3,829 Christians kidnapped between October 1, 2020 and September 30, 2021 in 50 countries investigated.