2019 was deadly for many believers across the globe whether they were killed while worshiping peacefully inside their churches or murdered by radicals as the slept at night.
Persecution spanned the religious spectrum as Christians, Jews, Muslim minority groups and Falun Gong were either mistreated by authorities, imprisoned, tortured or killed.
The following pages contain five of the world’s most significant persecution stories of 2019.
Over 1 million Muslims endure concentration camps in China
There was intense international outcry this year over the detention of Uighurs and other ethnic minority Muslims in Western China. Estimates suggest that over 1 million Muslims have been detained in re-education camps throughout China’s Xinjiang province.
Although the Chinese government claims these are training centers to educate people who’ve shown extremist tendencies and denies any mistreatment is going on, U.S. officials have publicly condemned the centers as being nothing more than “concentration camps.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused China of trying to “erase” minority cultures and religions.
Earlier this year, journalists were allowed to tour some of the so-called training centers in Xinjiang. Even though the government claims it’s the students’ choice to attend, one journalist who toured the facilities said many are enrolled without knowing how long they will be forced to remain there.
Uighurs who are sent to the re-education camps spend many hours a day learning Chinese and studying China’s increasing restrictions on religion. BBC journalist John Sudworth said the centers replace “faith and cultural identity with a different loyalty.”
“These are places where adults wear uniforms and they don’t go home at the end of the day but sleep up to 10 a room sharing a toilet with no idea how many months or years it will be before they can return to their families,” Sudworth said after touring select facilities in Xinjiang.
Since 2017, estimates suggest that anywhere between 800,000 to more than 2 million Uighurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities have been detained at camps in Xinjiang.
The treatment of Uighurs in China was prominently featured in the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom’s 2019 annual report and was even the focus of the report’s cover.
Although the Chinese government claims students choose to go to these camps, USCIRF noted that the detention of prominent doctors, professors and businessmen contradicts that claim.
Pompeo has called on other countries to resist China’s demands to repatriate ethnic Uighurs to China.
Hundreds killed in Sri Lanka Easter bombings
Easter Sunday 2019 was marred by suicide bombings targeting Christians at three churches and three hotels in Sri Lanka.
At least 250 people were killed and 500 others were injured when nine radical Islamic suicide bombers carried out attacks in Negombo, Batticaloa, and Colombo.
Sad stories emerged of family members losing loved ones. It was also said that on the day of the attack, children in Sunday school at the Zion Church in Batticaloa were asked by their teacher how many of them were willing to die for their faith in Jesus. All of the children reportedly raised their hands. Minutes later, the blast occurred that took half of their lives.
In the wake of the bombing, Zion Church Senior Pastor Roshan Mahesan made headlines by announcing forgiveness for the attackers believed to be affiliated with the Islamic extremist group National Thowheeth Jama’ath. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.
“As the senior pastor of Zion Church Batticaloa, the whole congregation and every family affected, we say to the suicide bomber and also to the group that sent the suicide bomber that we love you and we forgive you,” Mahesan said.
New York-based pastor William Devlin, through his REDEEM! nonprofit organization, helped to raise tens of thousands of dollars to help Zion Church.
St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo was able to reopen in June after an international campaign to help it rebuild.
In July, St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo was reconsecrated and a memorial including the names of the 114 victims killed in the Easter attack was unveiled.
Questions were raised about why the Sri Lankan government did not prevent the attack.
Dozens killed in Christchurch mosque shootings
About a month before the Sri Lanka Church bombing, shootings occurred at Linwood Islamic Centre and the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Fifty-one people were killed while 49 others were injured in the March 15 shootings.
The man accused of the crime is 28-year-old Australian Brenton Tarrant, who appeared to use a GoPro helmet camera to film himself killing the victims. Seventeen minutes of his attack was broadcast on Facebook Live.
Before the attack occurred, Tarrant allegedly posted a 73-page “manifesto” titled “The Great Replacement.”
In a section titled “The White Genocide,” he allegedly wrote that mass migration will destroy the culture.
“Thus, before we deal with the fertility rates, we must deal with both the invaders within our lands and the invaders that seek to enter our lands,” he allegedly wrote. “We must crush immigration and deport those invaders already living on our soil. It is not just a matter of our prosperity, but the very survival of our people.”
In June, the mass shooter pleaded not guilty to all charges against him, which include 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and one count of terrorism. His trial is set to begin next June.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Samuel Smith