The global persecution of Christians

Most persecuted believers are Christian, but their plight has been ignored.

Paul Coleman

Topics Politics UK World

This week, the UK foreign secretary and Tory leadership contender Jeremy Hunt suggested that a new term equivalent to ‘Islamophobia’ might be needed to describe the scale of global Christian persecution outlined in a newly released report.

The report into UK responses to Christian persecution concludes that ‘the overwhelming majority (estimated at 80 per cent) of persecuted religious believers [worldwide] are Christians’, and that the UK has failed to respond adequately.

Hunt has promised to act on the findings, and has pledged to enact the report’s recommendations if he becomes prime minister.

Hunt’s desire to address the issue head-on is welcome. But the reality that the report exposes is that one of the biggest human-rights issues of our time has been largely ignored by his own department in recent years.

The scale of the persecution noted is staggering.

In Iraq alone, the report notes the exodus of over a million people following attacks, kidnappings, threats, enslavement, rape, displacement, and executions at the hands of ISIS. In Nigeria, the report tells of similar atrocities by Boko Haram, which, like ISIS, has perpetrated self-declared genocide that is yet to be recognised as such because of political cowardice.

At a time when the UK has prioritised its economic relationship with the Chinese government, the report notes that Chinese authorities wage a war against their own Christian population through harassment, church demolitions and forced disappearances. In Pakistan, draconian blasphemy laws prevents free speech in a country that tops the charts for UK aid payments each year. And if not withholding aid money because of such systematic persecution proved to be beyond the UK, so did meaningful action to assist Pakistan’s most recent high-profile victim, Asia Bibi.

The question is: why was there such relative inaction for so long?

The Bishop of Truro, the report’s author, suggests it is bound up in a view that to address Christian persecution would be some sort of ‘expression of white Western privilege’ or a ‘special pleading for Christians’. In fact, as the bishop notes, this report is the recognition of a ‘significant deficit’ of the institutional focus that the UK could have given to some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world.

According to the bishop, institutional failures are more than just the product of imperial-era hang-ups — they are the result of officials lacking effective target frameworks or the requisite religious literacy required to notice and address persecution when it arises.

While there are departmental commitments to freedom of religion or belief, there are few working procedures to ensure that government officials prioritise religion in the same way as other issues.

Such a lack of institutional priority translates into a culture that the report calls a ‘certain post-Christian bewilderment’ that leads to ‘failure to grasp how for the vast majority of the world’s inhabitants faith is not only a primary marker of identity, but also a primary motivation for action (both for good or ill)’.

While the recommendations of the report are relevant and welcome, their effective implementation will be a fresh test of our institutions’ commitment to freedom of religion or belief. Will the Foreign Office be willing to review the implementation of the recommendations in three years’ time as suggested? Or will this report collect dust under a new foreign secretary, unwilling to drag their department along with them?

Clearly, there is a need for direct action, the first step of which is accepting that the persecution of Christians is a genuine issue. Ending it should be a primary goal of British foreign policy, and Foreign and Commonwealth Office staff need to be trained and equipped in monitoring, recognising and countering religious persecution at their respective posts. But whatever happens next, Hunt should forget pushing for terms like ‘Christophobia’, which are neither needed nor helpful.

Christian persecution, as we see it all over the world today, is systematic violence and destruction aimed at minorities, which ends in genocide if not addressed properly. If anything, the West has a ‘phobia’ of talking about it openly, realistically, and with genuine concern for those suffering for their faith.

Paul Coleman is a British solicitor and executive director of ADF International, a human rights organization defending the right of people to freely live out their faith.

Picture by: Getty.

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Alan Burdon

14th July 2019 at 9:38 am

It seems that some commenters here have little idea of the scale of Christian persecution worldwide. May I suggest a view of the website of Barnabas Fund ; a longstanding and respected charity working to support persecuted Christians across the world. This news page contains daily struggles inteerspersed at regular intervals by further atrocities such as last week’s slaughter of 100 Christian villagers in Cameroon. Completely disregarded by the world’s media.
It may give some of the naysayeers her pause for thought.

Claire D

14th July 2019 at 11:44 am

What I find so disturbing apart from the lack of coverage is the bias displayed both by the media and politicians. When there is an attack on a mosque by a very short lunatic there is self-mortification and constant references to ‘ right-wing terrorists ‘. When there are carefully planned attacks on Christians by a group of actual terrorists the focus is on the tragedy and carefully avoids the politics almost completely.
Perhaps politicians think there is an argument in favour of this approach, ie placating Islamists in the hope that there will not be retaliation. Well it’s not working and it did’nt work, the concerted attacks on Christians coming just after the atrocity in New Zealand. Obviously the heightened security in NZ afterwards made it impossible to attack there so terrorists picked soft, easy targets in Sri Lanka.
It is important to live peacefully with our neighbours, and we should do all we can to do so, but ignoring the plight of Christians is like throwing them to the lions all over again.

Hana Jinks

14th July 2019 at 3:19 pm

Thanks so much for introducing us to that site Alan.

I’m pretty much lost for words. I’m not surprised at all to hear of Christians being persecuted in these types of countries, but I’m absolutely horrified and enraged at the kind of society we live in now. Our governments and media are greedy, humanistic traitors.

Jane 70

13th July 2019 at 2:51 pm

A family member, who has business connections in Sri Lanka, spent almost the whole of Easter Sunday, from about 5am, frantically checking on the whereabouts of her Sri Lankan colleagues : fortunately, she was at home here when the attacks took place.

None of her colleagues were injured or killed, but the country has been left reeling in the aftermath of this utterly senseless bloodshed.

Sri Lanka had finally established a kind of peace following the long civil war, but now fear reigns. The government has been recruiting candidates for the role of official executioner., as death sentences will probably be handed down when those involved in the plot are tried.

I have no religious beliefs but I found this cynical wholesale slaughter of Christian worshippers utterly senseless and abhorrent.

Why do so many young male Moslems believe that murdering Christians and other minorities is the way forward?

My relative is a very devout catholic, so a double whammy for her, both as a Christian and a regular visitor to Sri Lanka.

Hana Jinks

13th July 2019 at 3:11 pm

God made us to be His family, and to live and rule with Him in Heaven for eternity. The devil is a rebel, and God kicked him out of Heaven and down to earth, where he has been given powers to deceive.

The book that muslims read is of the devil, and is nothing but lies and nonsense. If any of us had been borne into this then we’d be propagaters of lies and nonsense as well.

Esau Bloggs

13th July 2019 at 1:18 pm

The author asserts that terms such as Christophobia are neither needed nor helpful, without explaining why. I applaud the term Christophobia, as a semi-satirical counterpoint to the nonsensical concept of Islamophobia, but think we should go further, identifying it as a subset of a wider malaise in Islam, Kafirphobia. Explained in this alternative view of the Jeremy Hunt/Bishop Mountstephen press conference:

Claire D

13th July 2019 at 11:13 am

An important article, or do we just ignore some persecutions while condemning others ?
Despite how unfashionable Christianity is it is worth remembering that our political and legal systems including the Rule of Law is predicated on Christian doctrine.
Prior to this Christian based law, prisoners were beheaded; traitors hung, drawn and quartered; men castrated for rape; men, women and children hung for thieving,there was no redress for the poor when treated unjustly; disagreements meant bloodshed, might equalled right.
These political and legal systems have spread around the world largely due to colonialism and are manifest in India, Africa, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand etc .
It seems to me Christianity has given us something to be very grateful for.

Winston Stanley

13th July 2019 at 5:10 am

The British Social Attitudes survey for 2018 has found for the third year running that the majority of Brits have no religion. Only 1% of younger people identify as Anglican; three quarters of them have no religion. Surely it is time to disestablish the state religion and to remove bishops from our parliament, to get the schools off the C of E, and to end compulsory Christian prayer in all state schools.

Some highlights:

> Latest British Social Attitudes survey shows continuing rise of the non-religious

Britain has continued its long-term trend towards being less and less religious, with the number of people saying they belong to no religion growing from two in five (43%) to a more than half (52%) over the last decade.

The survey found that 52% of people belong to no religion, 12% are Anglicans, 7% are Catholics, 19% are some other type of Christian, and 9% belong to a non-Christian religion. The rise of the non-religious is largely attributed to generational change – and with just 1% of those aged 18-24 saying they belong to the Church of England, the trend looks set to continue.

It also finds two-thirds saying they never attend religious services, just 31% describing themselves as religious, half saying they never pray, and 44% expressing atheist or agnostic beliefs. 35% think religious organisations have too much power, with only 5% taking the opposite view. But, at the same time, tolerance of people holding different religions has gone up.

Responding to the findings, Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented: ‘For the third year in a row, the British Social Attitudes Survey – the gold standard in reliable data on our society – has shown a majority of Brits are non-religious. With these trends set to continue, policy-makers in every field from education, to constitutional law, to health and social care need to wake up to such dramatic social changes, particularly the rise of the non-religious and the decline of Christianity.’

Gerard Barry

12th July 2019 at 10:26 am

I sincerely worry for the future of Christians in the West as well. Given the huge, and continuing, immigration of extremely religious Muslims into our countries, how can the religious freedom of Christians be guaranteed? The fact that the native populations are growing ever more secular doesn’t help matters either as it means that practicing Christians are probably already a minority in many Western countries.

Philip Humphrey

12th July 2019 at 12:19 pm

I think we need a proper bill of rights that included freedom of speech and expression, freedom of religious belief (or none) and to live one’s life in accordance to those beliefs. And the so-called “Equality Act” needs to be ripped up and rewritten so that while respecting the rights of all minorities, it doesn’t allow the rights of one group to override the rights of another in the way we’ve seen the “Equality” act used against Christians.

Hana Jinks

12th July 2019 at 12:58 pm

We cannot give ‘rights’ to islam, in that it is diabolical nonsense and completely incompatible with western society.

Jonnie Henly

12th July 2019 at 12:49 pm

Why does increased secularism amongst western populations threaten the religious freedom of Christians? Or any other religion for that matter.

Gerard Barry

12th July 2019 at 1:31 pm

Because it means that Christians – and in particular practicing Christians – will be a minority. Whereas before, Christian views might have been the norm, nowadays those who hold such views (e.g. anti-abortion) often feel isolated and vulnerable to ridicule. Their minority status increases the risk of them being persecuted.

Hana Jinks

13th July 2019 at 3:22 pm

Jon Hen.

Have you seen the situation where the rugby player Israel Folau is being persecuted for posting something from the bible on Instagram? He’s had his contract torn up by the ARU, and it seems to me as if the ARU has warned his teammates against supporting him.

The far-left is a satanic cult. They practice infanticide, paedophilia, homosexuality and all kinds of other weird perversions. And they want us all to pay for it thru the climate-hoax.

Amelia Cantor

12th July 2019 at 10:02 am

So while denying the reality of Islamophobia, Spiked heavily plug the myths around the so-called persecution of Christians.

Far right agenda, much? Maybe we’ll see Tommy Robinson, Farage, Count Dankula and Sargon of Akkad penning a few articles for Spiked in the near future.

Alex Ander

12th July 2019 at 12:42 pm

The fact that you equate acknowledging (the existence of) Christian persecution globally with the”far right” – (a very loose and genuinely meaningless term if ever there were one) tells me that you are precisely part of the “head-in-the-sand” attitude that has beset certainly this country and much of the westernised world. Actually – it also tells me that you’re probably scared of being unpopular if you don’t jump on the “Islam apologist band-wagon”. True, though isn’t it? Easy to take pot-shots at Christianity because they don’t issue fatwas?

Jonnie Henly

12th July 2019 at 12:53 pm

You can tell a lot of things from one short comment.

Perhaps you’re just a bit biased and overly keen to jump to conclusions about anyone who dares disagree with you.

Hana Jinks

12th July 2019 at 12:50 pm

Islamophobia only exists in the heads of the kinds of people that think that it should be above scorn and ridicule. Christian persecution is deemed fake by those that are threatened by it’s Truth, and want it removed from society so as to be able to practice guilt-free perversion.

I’m pretty sure that you’d consider George Monbiot to be FAAARRR-RRIIIGGGHTTT.

Hana Jinks

13th July 2019 at 1:54 pm

I’m not far-right. I’m not a Klansmen, and I’m not some kind of tatted-up skinhead nationalist. I doubt that there are even a thousand of these kinds of people left in the whole world.

What is Islamophobia, and why are you lying about Christian persecution as a way to have guilt-free perversion?

Ian Wilson

12th July 2019 at 1:35 pm

That’s got to be the stupidest comment I’ve seen in a while. So basically anyone who disagrees with your point of view is “far right”? You are symptomatic with why society is unable to discuss the real and genuine problems facing us all around free speech, and the ability to criticise your specific magic fairy in the sky.

Amelia Cantor

13th July 2019 at 10:40 am

No, some left-wing people disagree with me too. Not everyone who disagrees with me is far right, but one thing is certain: if you’re far right, you WILL disagree with me in terms of racism, Islamophobia, transphobia, sexism, etc.

I wouldn’t expect anything else.

Hana Jinks

13th July 2019 at 1:57 pm

What is Islamophobia, and why are you lying about Christian persecution as a way to have guilt-free perversion?

Stewart Ware

12th July 2019 at 8:40 am

It is not just Christians who are being persecuted. For example, atheist bloggers and Hindus in Bangladesh are being murdered. It would be wrong to single out one religious group for protection. All people whatever the beliefs should be protected and this idea should be promoted in the most troubled and least enlightened parts of the world.

Hana Jinks

12th July 2019 at 12:53 pm

Islam is not compatible with western society. You cannot give any “protection” to it, in that it is diabolical horseshit.

Winston Stanley

12th July 2019 at 2:40 am

“the persecution of Christians is a genuine issue. Ending it should be a primary goal of British foreign policy”

I disagree. It is up to China and other countries how they handle religious minorities. China is not going to listen to us anyway, the entire venture is not only beyond our remit but our competence. In any case, It is not our place to promote the spread of Western religion in other parts of the world, a religion that most of us no longer have truck with. If evangelicals want to ply their wares around the world then that is their look out, they should not try to co-opt our state to help them do it. It would be the utmost folly to scupper trade deals on the basis of hopeless and impertinent attempts to tell China and other countries how to run their countries. I say no.

Philip Davies

12th July 2019 at 8:59 am

“First they came for the Christians, but I was not a Christian so I said nothing….”
And so it goes when we wash our hands in the tears of those we care nothing for.

Gerard Barry

12th July 2019 at 10:07 am

“In any case, It is not our place to promote the spread of Western religion in other parts of the world, a religion that most of us no longer have truck with.”

And therein lies the problem. It’s precisely because many Westerners no longer have any truck with their own religion that we turn a blind eye to the plight of persecuted Christians elswehere in the world while bending over backwards to accommodate illogical, fanatical Muslim practices in our own countries. Furthermore, thanks to mass immigration, Islam will probably be the largest religion in some Western countries within a couple of generations. Interestingly enough, the people in the West who have “no truck with religion” are often the same ones who support mass immigration by fanatical Muslims. The decadence of it all!

Jonnie Henly

12th July 2019 at 12:52 pm

It’s a pretty scary worldview to hold when you think the key “problem” is that not enough people are religious.

The whole idea that the only way to safeguard against radical Islam is to force Christianity on people is bunk.

They’re 2 sides of the same coin after all.

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