19 January 2018
| by Will Moffitt
The 'cradle to grave' strategy of Christian persecution: report
The tragedy of men and women branded as 'infidels', just for being Christian
The UK “should lead the way” in tackling unprecedented levels of Christian persecution a Conservative MP said on Wednesday. Teresa Villiers, MP for Chipping Barnet was speaking at the launch of the annual World Watch List, a survey of global Christian compiled by the Christian Charity Open Doors.
The report reveals that 3,000 Christians were killed for their faith last year, more than double the number recorded in the previous survey. It also states that more than 200 million Christians in the top 50 countries experience high levels of persecution or worse. Eleven of the countries in the list are now places of extreme persecution, the highest number ever recorded.
Mrs Villiers said more should be done to tackle Christian persecution: "The UK must encourage other countries, particularly those experiencing high levels of persecution, to tackle the problem."
Citing the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, which will be held in London this April, she said: “The meeting is a chance for the UK to set the agenda on this issue and encourage those countries to do more." This is particularly pertinent given that nine of the countries attending the meeting are listed on the World Watch List.
On Catholicism’s role in speaking out against Christian persecution Mrs Villiers said: “The Catholic church still has a positive role to play in world affairs and I’m sure many people would be interested in what they have to say on the matter.”
The event featured speakers Michael* and Hannah* from Egypt and Pakistan respectively, talking about the levels of persecution endured by Christians in their native countries.
Michael, an elder in one of Cairo’s local evangelical churches, works for the leadership team of a national ministry and with partners to strengthen the church and teach Christians in Egypt to stand strong through persecution and pressure.
Speaking about the attacks by IS on Egyptian churches in April last year, he said that while these shocking events are well documented, it is “the everyday life experience for Egyptian Christians that needs to be reported”. In Egypt “Christian men and women are branded as infidels,” with many suffering non-violent persecution. He talked of “the CV’s of many Christians being shredded”, countless “shops refusing to serve Christian people” and “company leaders refusing to promote Christian workers.”
Hannah, from Pakistan, described how the country of her birth is being “violated by extremist ideologies” that “treat Christians as foreign entities” and encourage “the vast majority of Muslims to believe that Pakistan is only for Muslims”. She talked of doctors, teachers, students, and countless others who have been ridiculed, beaten and ostracised because of their religious affiliation.
Both speakers highlighted the important distinction between violent and non-violent extremism that characterises the suffering of the global Christian community. While many in the western media are, quite rightly, swift to report violent attacks on Christians, for many it is the daily subjugation of non-violent discrimination that poses the gravest threat.
Lisa Pearce, CEO of Open Doors UK and Ireland, talked of a “cradle to grave strategy of persecution” in which people are not allowed to register young children as Christian and are not allowed to bury their dead. She said: “Violence is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to worldwide Christian persecution. The most insidious part is the bit below the water, which goes unseen and unreported.”
She described the "daily squeeze of non-violent persecution", saying: “Do not believe for one moment that the squeeze is any less dangerous or debilitating than the violence. The squeeze is insidious and it pervades every aspect of life.”
Among the examples cited were Christians in Bhutan being denied official citizenship, Neapalese Christians being refused the right to bury loved ones and a sewage worker being left to die because doctors refused to treat him because he was a Christian.
Asked about the role Pope Francis has played in publicly renouncing this kind of persecution Mrs Pearce said: “It is extremely exciting to hear key leaders across the church speaking out against this kind of discrimination. Just as the church teaches that we are one body united in Christ, we are all responsible for speaking out. If one part suffers than we all suffer.”
*Michael and Hannah are pseudonyms
(Pic: Prayers in 'Deir El-Garnouse Coptic church , near Al-Minya for the victims of of a terrorist attack. The prayers used to made in the homes of each victims families ritually at the third day of their death but Ava Aghathon the Bishop of the church insisted to make it for all the victims families tigether in the church. Christians died when fighters of the terror militia group Islamic State, or Daesh opened fire on their bus. Credit: brahim Ezzat/NurPhoto/PA)
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