Report on Christians’ persecutions
The 20th century rightly deserved its name: a century of ‘Christian martyrs.’ It seems that the 21st century can also be marked by the blood of Christ’s followers. The report on the present persecutions of Christians in the world, presented at the beginning of this century by the organisation Aid to the Church in Need has 200 pages. The book ‘Persecuted and Forgotten’ gives only a concise outline of the situation of millions of people in several dozen countries. The reality is certainly much worse. It contains much more blood, pain and suffering.
The report is valuable since it depicts the situation based on the stories of the witnesses: both religious and lay people, whom the representatives of the organisation Aid to the Church in Need met. In many cases the workers of the organisation went to the places where Christians suffered to have first-hand reports. They did not do it out of curiosity but to bring concrete help. Currently, the organisation founded by the charismatic priest Werenfried van Straaten supports projects of pastoral character in 145 countries in the world.
Who is the biggest threat to Christians
Globally speaking, the first torturer is the Islamic fundamentalism, embodied by the secret terrorist units but it happens that the torturer is a legal country recognised by the international community. Another fundamentalism, which recently has raised its head high, has Hindu colour and exerts particularly strong influence on many Indian states. The religion of Buddhism, regarded as peaceful by numerous Europeans, intensified Christians’ sufferings in several cases. It happened in the countries where Buddhists were the majority. The next enemy of Christians is the totalitarian regimes, hostile to the teaching of Christ for a simple reason – it sets people free. In many parts of the world the regimes are doing well, feeding on tears, pain and blood.
The difficult fate of persecuted Christians is intensified by the indifference of the world. One can hear no protests, alarming voices, appeals for help for the afflicted. One has the impression that the mainstream media do not care for the fate of Christians or, most favourably, they underestimate their situations. The unequal treatment can be seen in a simple comparison of two events that happened in the places, which were relatively close to each other, in a short span of time – several months. We mean the protest of the Tibetan monks in March; the monks were pacified by the Chinese regime, and the planned pogrom of Christians in Orissa in India, which began in August. The whole world spoke about the first event. The second one was hardly noticed, and avoiding the word ‘unwillingly’, reported. The thing is not to have a bragging contest who suffered more. Both cases deserve to be publicised; the oppressors should be condemned and the alarm should be raised. The Indian Christians are not different people than the Tibetan or Burmese monks that the world spoke for successfully in 2008.
Scale of sufferings
Every third man on the earth is Christian. He belongs to various denominations. Over 2 billion people are Christ’s followers. One can say that every fourth man, 550 million people, suffers for his faith to a smaller or bigger extent. For 200 million people persecution is not a matter of theoretical possibility that should be taken into account like Jesus said, ‘If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you’ (John 15:20) but a matter of facts. < class="styt">Black list
The report of the organisation Aid to the Church in Need depicts the difficult situation of Christians in 33 countries, commencing with Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. These are the countries where the situation is worst. Here is a disgraceful list of these countries where Christians are looking forward to the possibilities of building churches, to have the right to prayer freely and wear a cross or to be equally treated in offices, courts or any other public institutions:: Afghanistan, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Belarus, Burma/Myanmar, China, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Iran, South Korea, Cuba, Laos, Lebanon, Maldives, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tadzhikistan, Turkey, Uganda, Venezuela, Vietnam, the Holy Land, Zimbabwe. Most of the countries are under the sign of the Crescent. The gathered data clearly say that in countries with Muslim majorities Christians suffer most. The example of Iraq shows that the situation gets worse instead of getting better. The statistics cannot show that but Christians run away for one reason – they escape persecutions. Apart from the countries of tough Islam like Saudi Arabia or Iran the list also includes countries where the influence of the Muslim radicals is smaller, like Algeria, Egypt or Turkey that aspires to be a member of the European Union. But it happens in those countries that being a Christian means accepting tears and even shedding blood. The next groups of countries that have problems with the fundamental human right to confess faith are the communist countries. These include powerful China and the most isolated country in the world – South Korea. We have the least information from there. The report devotes only one page and a half to them. The scarce information that leaves the most impenetrable iron curtain in the history of mankind gives us a picture of ‘a little flock’ of those who believe in Christ and not in Kim Dzong II. We know much more about the fate of Christians in Cuba, Vietnam or Laos.
Geography of persecutions
Sketching geography of persecutions on the basis of the report one can easily see that the situation of Christians in the Asian continent is the worst. Asia is the largest continent and at the same time it has the smallest presence of Christians, which is most frequently explained by cultural differences that were obstacles in the mass evangelisation of the ancient and rich cultures. However, the fact is that Christians have always met a wall of hostility and even hatred there, which the report clearly shows. This is also the reason why the continent to which the Gospel reached early has not really got to know Christ so far. The situation in some African countries, listed in the report, is also alarming. We mean Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and Sudan. The difficult situation of Christians in these countries is caused by the constantly increasing zone of influence of Muslims, pushing from the north to the south of the continent.
South America is the area of the biggest presence of Catholics in the world. Over half of the Christians who are in unity with Rome live there. It would seem that confessing faith in such conditions should not meet any obstacles. But Venezuela was mentioned in the report. It is because of the totalitarian Marxist tendencies of President Hugo Chavez. He regards everyone who stands on his way to power as an enemy. The representatives of the Catholic Church have often criticised his decisions, which exposed them to vulgar attacks of the President himself or his officials. The only European country which was described in the report prepared by the organisation Aid to the Church in Need is Belarus. It is an example of the situation in the countries that were created after the fall of the Soviet empire. There are still tendencies to control everything, including the religion of their citizens and to suppress – many a time by force – the attitudes and behaviour that the authorities regard as dangerous.
The Church is in need
What to do? How to help our sisters and brothers in faith, who are tens of thousands kilometres away, who do not know ‘the day and the hour’? Distance cannot justify indifference. Most of all, information is needed. One should demand it. One should seek it. One should pass it on. May the subjects of our conversations also be pogroms, persecutions and sufferings and not only another episode of some popular serial or some scandal that occurred in an entertainment programme. Secondly, as Aid to the Church in Need advises – prayer. Constant, daily and not only occasional. Finally, financial support. One should rebuild the properties after the pogrom in India where churches and Christian houses were destroyed. Christians must live somewhere; must have their places of prayer so that the plan of the Hindu fundamentalists is not fulfilled. Their main aim is to throw Christians from these lands. We need means to rebuild houses and churches. Christians who belong to the poorest social groups in the countries that persecute them, who are fired for their faith, who are robbed, are not able to rebuild the properties themselves.
Rev. Dr. Waldemar Cislo, director of the Polish section of ‘Aid to the Church in Need, says,
The report shows the history of Christians’ heroism, which ends in death for faith in many cases. They are for us, people living in Europe that can enjoy freedom in confessing our faith, remorse. How often because of our consumerism, we forget about God. Is the blood of today’s martyrs not sufficient remorse when we wonder whether to go to Mass on Sunday whereas many of them going to church may face death?
Persecuted and forgotten
Are you Christian? You can die for this faith in many countries. Today Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world. Annually 170,000 people are killed because of Christ. The report of Aid to the Church in Need, containing the latest data about Christians’ persecutions, was presented in Warsaw.
As many as 200 million Christians are oppressed for their faith. They often face death. In total, 350 million Christians are oppressed. The worst situation is in India, China and Iraq. In India the thread is radical Hinduism, in China – regime and in Iraq – militant Islam. But persecutions also occur in Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, South Korea, Cuba, Nepal, Sudan, Turkey and Vietnam. For example, a Saudi Arabian woman was murdered by her father when he had learnt about her conversion to Christianity. In turn, a Christian woman from Algeria was arrested by the authorities because she had some Christian books on her, which was connected with the accusation of ‘practising non-Muslim religion without any official consent.’ And in China one believer went to the office of public security to demand compensation for her burnt books. She was brutally beaten in reply. The report is entitled ‘Persecuted and Forgotten’, which indicated the indifference of the world towards the drama of millions of Christians. ‘The duty of followers of Christ is not only prayer but speaking about these tragic events. I think that this is one of the urgent tasks that believers face so that they will not allow to be marginalised’, says Fr Waldemar Cislo from the organisation Aid to the Church in Need.