19 November 2022, The Tablet

Persecution of Christians passes 'threshold of genocide' says report

Aid to the Church in Need warned that Nigeria “teeters on the brink of becoming a failed state”.

Persecution of Christians passes 'threshold of genocide' says report

The Bishop of Ondo, Jude Arogundade, visits a victim of the June attack on St Francis Xavier Church in hospital.

A report on persecuted Christians has warned that growing threats to communities across the world and evidence of violence which “clearly passes the threshold of genocide”.

Persecuted and Forgotten? was published by the charity Aid to the Church in Need on Wednesday 16 November at the Houses of Parliament. Covering the period 2020-22, it found that the persecution of Christians increased in three-quarters of the countries surveyed.

The charity said that the report “shows there is a long way to go to ensure the liberty of Christians and other minorities around the world is protected”.

Research found varying causes of oppression in different regions, with state authoritarianism significant in some Asian countries, such as China and Myanmar, while in India the growth of religious nationalism had caused worsening conditions for Christians.

The report describes a particularly bleak situation in Nigeria, which it says “teeters on the brink of becoming a failed state”, where more than 7,600 Christians were killed between January 2021 and June 2022.

The foreword is by Fr Andrew Andeniyi Abayomi, a priest of St Francis Xavier’s Church in Owo, Ondo State, which was attacked by militants during Pentecost Mass on 5 June this year, killing 40 of the congregation.

“The world has turned away from Nigeria,” writes Fr Abayomi. “A genocide is taking place, but no one cares.”

The Bishop of Ondo, Jude Arogundade, who attended the launch of the report in Westminster, said: “The world is silent as attacks on churches, their personnel and institutions have become routine. How many corpses are required to get the world’s attention?”

The report also notes state-sponsored persecution in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, where Ethiopian and Eritrean troops have been implicated in massacres.

In the Middle East, it finds “signs that in parts of the Middle East Christians are in a worse situation than during the Daesh (ISIS) occupation”.  Across the region, it says that the continued threat of Islamist resurgence and the fragile confidence of the Christian population was motivating migration which threatened the survival of their communities.

“Treated as second-class citizens, discriminated against at school and in the workplace, poor pay or joblessness trigger many to seek a life outside the country.”

Among the governmental threats to Christian communities in Asia, the report includes their treatment under severe Covid-19 regulations: “State violations of religious liberty during the coronavirus pandemic ranged from the well-intentioned but draconian to the calculated and outright repressive.”

The report also warns of a “cultural misperception in the West that continues to deny that Christians remain the most widely persecuted faith group”.

The Bishop of Clifton, Declan Lang, who chairs the international affairs department of the bishops' conference of England and Wales, said that he welcomed the report.

“I encourage fellow Catholics to share this report with their local MP,” he said. “I also urge Catholics in England and Wales to join me in prayer for our sisters and brothers who have been affected by human rights abuses and for all those working for change.”

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