Discrimination against Christians around the world has increased over the course of the coronavirus pandemic, an international Christian charity has claimed.
In nations with limited religious freedoms, persecution has been stepped up during the pandemic. In China, churches have continued to be demolished and Christians have been arrested for holding prayer meetings online.
In the developing world, many Christians have been denied food and other forms of aid and are excluded from support systems during lockdown due to their faith, the charity Release International claims. Paul Robinson, the CEO of Release International, said that “cries for help are being ignored by local charities” who are discriminating against Christian families.
In Eritrea, Christians fleeing persecution on the grounds of their faith have been barred from finding shelter in refugee camps and unable to access UN support. Given that many have been disowned by their families for converting to Christianity, and that they refuse to resort to crime to get the money and supplies they need, such refugees sometimes lack any means of support whatsoever.
In Pakistan, Egypt and other Muslim nations where many Christians live in poverty, the situation is especially difficult for converts from Islam. The only form of reliable social security, particularly in rural areas, is communal and family support, which converts to Christianity may be cut off from. The severe economic impact of lockdown measures upon poorer countries like Pakistan means that people employed in low-paying or precarious work lack money for food or rent, let alone facemasks or hand sanitiser.
Christians have been subject to varying levels of persecution in China for many decades, but Release International partners in that country claim that the coronavirus pandemic has led to a crackdown on religious minorities.
Even government-backed Churches have reportedly been subject to restrictions and punitive actions, such as the demolition of crosses. Online church services have been “totally prohibited”, and pastors have been “rounded up” for preaching and distributing face masks on the street. One Christian from Shandong who called for nine days of prayer and fasting for victims of the virus was arrested on charges of organising an illegal religious service.
In reaction to this, Release International has launched an appeal for funds to provide food, bibles and other support to Christians around the world. The charity has warned that it is likely the situation for Christians will continue to deteriorate before it improves, making charitable support all the more important.