Hong Kong Correspondent
Pope Francis in 2014 said that Christians had become more under threat than in the early period of the Church. In the Spanish La Vanguardia Catholic newspaper he said “persecution against Christians today is stronger than in the first centuries of the Church.”
The last reports on worldwide religious persecution by the Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), revealed how much more there is through their thorough international research.
They calculated that more than 340 million Christians “live in a country where they suffer some form of persecution, such as arbitrary arrest, violence, a full range of human rights violations and even murder.”
The recent ACN research revealed that the figure could be almost twice that: “It must be noted that some groups monitoring Christian persecution around the world put the number of Christians suffering various forms of persecution to as high as 600 million.”
Also reports from the Pew Research Center stated “that the number of countries where Christians are subject to a degree of government-enforced restrictions and communal hostility has grown from 108 in 2014 to 128 in 2015 and to 143 in 2017.”
Moreover this ACN recent research states that “between June 2016 and June 2018 particularly grave violations of religious freedom took place in 38 countries, in 17 of which minority faiths—and Christianity figuring most prominently among them—suffered instances of severe discrimination.” In 21 nations, ACN “found evidence of outright persecution, even to the point of death.”
One of the main reasons for this persecution is religious fundamentalism. “Radical, extremist Islam is responsible for the persecution of Christians in 22 of the worst-offending countries,” ACN reports.
Why should the charity be especially interested in freedom and persecution? The background explains that.
ACN, began after World War Two by Father Werenfried van Straaten, a Dutch priest, to help Eastern European refugees, mostly Catholics fleeing from new anti-religious, communist, Soviet rule. They were mostly Catholics, according to his obituary in the British Daily Telegraph.
Pope Benedict XVI elevated ACN to a pontifical institution in 2011, partly in recognition of its support of persecuted Christians. As Catholic News Service reported, the Pope said that “ACN will continue as before, in a spirit of active charity to help wherever the Church faces hardship or persecution.”
And today, these reports state that they are “providing emergency aid and pastoral support to the persecuted and suffering Church in 140 countries.” (Photo: Aid to the Church in Need)