Some may find it hard to believe but Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world. With the current conflicts in the Middle East, some might say that those who practice the religion of Islam are the ones who are the most persecuted, but that is not the case.
Islam is actually the fastest growing religion in the world growing at an annual pace of 1.8% from 2000 to 2010, and according to the Pew Research Center. If the current trend continues, by 2050 “the number of Muslims will nearly equal the number of Christians around the world,” and “in Europe, Muslims will make up 10% of the overall population.”
Christianity, on the other hand, is on the decline, especially in the United States. In 2007, 78.4% of the American population considered themselves to be Christians. In 2014, that number decreased to 70.6%.
“Around the world Christians face an increasing array of violent persecutors. These include the brutal Islamic State in the Middle East, heavily armed militants in Nigeria and Hindu extremists in India,” warns Release Chief Executive Paul Robinson. “Our report on the likely trends of persecution in 2017 is a wake-up call to take our prayers and practical support for our persecuted family to a new level.”
“More than 2 million people, many of them Christians, have been forced to leave their homes in northern Nigeria, where the Islamist terror group Boko Haram is waging a campaign,” reported The Guardian in 2016. “Open Doors also reported violence against Christian farmers by Hausa-Fulani tribesmen, conservatively estimating more than 1,500 religiously motivated killings. Both Boko Haram and Hausa-Fulani “are carrying out religious cleansing, aiming to eradicate Christianity”, the charity said.”
RT reported that in 2016, “the Chaldean Bishop of Aleppo, Antoine Audo, said that during the five years of the Syrian conflict, the Christian population of the country had declined from 1.5 million to 500,000.”
Breitbart reported that “the number of Christians in Aleppo has fallen from 160,000 to just 40,000.”
There was a total of about 1.4 million Christians living in Iraq before 2003 but after the U.S. invasion and because of the continuous fighting in the region the number of Christians in Iraq has dropped to somewhere between 260,00 and 350,000. Due to the increase in violence and threat of ISIS more than 125,000 Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homeland in the past several years.
Dr. Richard Landes, director and co-founder of the Center for Millennial Studies at Boston University said,
“In the old days [Yishuv days], when the Muslims rioted and massacred Jews, they’d say, ‘first the Saturday people, then the Sunday people.’ Now that the Jews have a state and can defend themselves, they’ve moved on to the Sunday people, and the only place Christians are safe is where the Saturday people have sovereignty.”
“The really sick part of this picture is that the Christians in the west not only won’t come to the defense of the Sunday people in the Muslim world, but rather, seem fixated on not letting the Saturday people defend either themselves or the Sunday people who live among them. With their western enemies behaving so self-destructively, it’s a good time to be a jihadi.”
A recent government report in Britain has revealed that Christianity is declining and Islam is increasing. “Christianity has fallen from 40.2 million down to 36.1 million with further declines projected,” reported Express. The Casey Review published earlier this month shows that Islam is now the largest non-Christian religious population in the UK — growing by 1.2 million people, a 72% increase.
The Casey Review also states that “Christians remain a majority, while a quarter of the population holds no religion. But the proportion of Christians fell from 70 per cent to 59 per cent, while the proportion holding no religion grew from 17 per cent to 26 per cent.”
In an interview with Vatican Radio, Massimo Introvigne, Director of the Center for Studies on New Religions (CENSUR), spoke about the current state of Christians around the world in regards to persecution. In his interview Introvigne explained that according to the Center for Study of Global Christianity the number of Christians killed for their religion around the world in 2016 is around 90,000. That number can be higher because the data in the report does not include number of those killed in India or China. The statistics will be published by the Center for Study of Global Christianity this month.
“30 percent, that is 27,000 of the 90,000 Christians killed comes from terrorist attacks, destruction of Christian villages, government persecution, as in the case of North Korea,” said Introvigne, while 70 percent of Christians were killed in Africa due to tribal conflicts in Africa.
Back in 2011, Massimo Introvigne reported that “In 2001, David B. Barrett and his colleague Todd M. Johnson started collecting statistics on martyrs. In their seminal work World Christian Trends AD 30 – AD 2200 (Pasadena: William Carey Library, 2001), they assessed that up to the year 2000 there had been some 70 million Christian martyrs, of which 45 million were concentrated in the 20th century.”
He continued by stating that “In their last update, “Christianity 2011: Martyrs and the Resurgence of Religion”, published in the issue for January 2011 (vol. 35, n. 1) of their International Bulletin of Missionary Research, they noted that the number of Christian martyrs per year peaked at around 160,000 in the year 2000 because of local situations, including in Sudan. Since conditions in Sudan and elsewhere became subsequently less dramatic, their «confident» estimate for the year 2010 is of 100,000 Christian martyrs. They also expect the figure of 100,000 to be substantially replicated in 2011.
According to Todd M. Johnson, Associate Professor of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, “The Center for the Study of Global Christianity estimates that more than 70 million Christians have been martyred over the last two millennia. More than half of these were in the 20th century under fascist and communist regimes. For the early 21st century, we estimate that 1 million Christians were killed over the 10-year period from 2000–2010, an average of approximately 100,000 Christians killed each year.”
In his interview with Vatican Radio, Massimo Introvigne also stated that after comparing his data with the data of 102 countries there are “between 500 and 600 million Christians who can not profess their faith in a way totally free.”
In 2015, the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ) reported that at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Conference in Vienna, “The representative of the Holy See to OSCE, Msgr. Janusz Urbanczyk, made several statements. He noted that “the lives of many people are being affected only because of their Christian faith, which actually can be found at the roots of the culture of tolerance and equality”.
He indicated that Christians and Christian communities are the most persecuted religious group on a global level, even in countries where they constitute a majority. “Offending, insulting and attacking Christians became almost legitimate and if Christians protest against these offences, they are again accused of being opponents of free expression or of manifestation of rights of others,” Msgr. Urbanczyk said.
He expressed concerns about the limitation of the freedom of religion of Christians as
“a sharp dividing line drew between religious belief and religious practice, so that Christians are frequently reminded in public discourse or even in the courts, that they can believe whatever they like in private, and worship as they wish in their own churches, but they simply cannot act on those believes in public”.
Persecution comes in all forms. Whether you have been persecuted or not, there are millions of people around the world who are being tortured and killed for their beliefs. The same belief that many of us here in the United States share. We have been blessed to live in a country where we can freely speak and act on our beliefs without worry of imprisonment or death. The moral decline of those who surround us is quite visible these days and they continuously try to shove us out of the public square.
Did the Pharisees not shove Jesus out of the public square? Did Jesus die for the beliefs that you and I share today? Yes. Did his death end what he came here for? Did his death mark the end of Christianity? No. It was just the beginning. All the apostles were persecuted as they spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth. So let’s continue with the message of hope to those who have lost it. Lets continue being that light on the hill because no matter how much darkness surrounds us it will never extinguish that fire that lives inside us.