Eighty percent of religious believers who are being persecuted around the world are Christians, and in some regions the scale and nature of the persecution approaches the international definition of genocide, according to a new report commissioned by Britain’s foreign office.
“The main impact of such genocidal acts against Christians is exodus,” says the report’s author, the Anglican Bishop of Truro in southwest England, Philip Mountstephen.
“Christianity now faces the possibility of being wiped out in parts of the Middle East where its roots go back furthest.”
The report released Thursday says the proportion of Christians in the Middle East and North Africa – a predominantly Muslim region – has dropped from around 20 percent of the total population a century ago to some four percent today. In Iraq, the number of Christians has plummeted from 1.5 million early this century to less than 120,000 today.
It examines the treatment of Christians across parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia, and turns a spotlight on many governments, among them Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, Iraq, Nigeria, and Algeria.
The report found that “high levels of persecution” were taking place in 50 countries, affecting some 245 million Christians. That’s more than ten percent of the world’s estimated 2.3 billion Christians.
Among the many problems identified:
State policies including clampdowns on public worship, a political climate in which extremism thrives, a trend towards religious conservatism in some Muslim-majority countries, the teaching of religious hatred in school textbooks, legal and social discrimination, hate speech targeting believers, arrests and intimidation, the destruction of churches and Christian symbols, and the abduction and killing of clergy.
“In some regions, the level and nature of persecution is arguably coming close to meeting the international definition of genocide, according to that adopted by the U.N.,” Mountstephen wrote.
(The U.N. Convention on Genocide defines genocide as actions including killing and seriously harming people “with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”)
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who commissioned the independent study focused on Christian persecution early this year, told reporters in Ethiopia on Thursday, “I think we’ve all been asleep on the watch when it comes to the persecution of Christians.”
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SOURCE: CNS News, Patrick Goodenough