Jihadists and nationalists have driven rates of Christian persecution to extreme levels approaching genocide in some countries around the world, according to a new report from Aid to the Church in Need.
Persecuted and Forgotten? A Report on Christians Oppressed for their Faith 2020-22 found that anti-Christian violence “clearly passes the threshold of genocide” in some countries.
ACN found persecution has increased in 75 per cent of 24 surveyed countries between October 2020 and September 2022, compared with the previous reporting period.
Yet Western countries in particular refuse to acknowledge the scope of the problem.
“Part of the problem is a cultural misperception in the West that continues to deny that Christians remain the most widely persecuted faith group,” the report said.
“In Africa, the situation of Christians worsened in all countries reviewed amid evidence of a sharp increase in genocidal violence from militant non-state actors, including jihadists.”
Extremist violence in Africa is of particular concern, with Nigeria singled out for meeting the definition of genocide.
“In Africa, the situation of Christians worsened in all countries reviewed amid evidence of a sharp increase in genocidal violence from militant non-state actors, including jihadists,” the report said.
Bishop Jude Arogundade of Ondo in Nigeria launched the report in the UK. Forty-one people were killed in his diocese on Pentecost this year when armed gunmen opened fire at Mass.
“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?” Bishop Arogundade said.
More than 7,600 Nigerian Christians have been murdered in the last 18 months, the report said.
The report also identifies authoritarian governments as a major source of ongoing anti-Christian persecution. In Asia, North Korea, China, Myanmar and Vietnam were identified for state authoritarianism.
North Korea in particular has perpetrated “extreme Christian persecution” that “reached the threshold for genocide, with reports of murder, forced abortions and infanticide, and slavery”, the report said.
Religious nationalism was also a factor in persecution, particularly in India and Pakistan.
Hindutva nationalist groups in India have provoked an increasing number of acts of violent extremism against Christians, with 710 incidents between January 2021 and June 2022 recorded in the report.
“In Iraq the number of Christians has halved within the same time period, now numbering around 150,000.”
The Middle East, home to some of the most ancient Christian communities in the world, has also seen rates of persecution that can be described as genocidal.
In Syria the Christian population has been reduced from 1.5 million to 300,000 after a decade of war.
In Iraq the number of Christians has halved within the same time period, now numbering around 150,000.
Conditions are nevertheless judged to be “slightly better” in Iraq, according to ACN.
Sri Lanka was the only other country observed by the charity in which circumstances have improved during this reporting period.