Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Ed West

10/24/2008 (6 years ago)

The Catholic Herald (UK) (www.catholicherald.co.uk/)

Religious extremism is being linked to national identity and Christianity is perceived as a threat to the emergence of that new national identity.

Highlights

By Ed West

The Catholic Herald (UK) (www.catholicherald.co.uk/)

10/24/2008 (6 years ago)

Published in Europe


LONDON, UK (The Catholic Herald, UK) - The persecution of Christians is on the increase around the world, a leading overseas charity has said, with some Christian minorities at risk of being "extinguished".Aid to the Church in Need's Index of Persecution document, released this week, states that persecution has worsened in 17 of 29 countries the group monitors since 2006, among them India, Iraq, Algeria and Egypt.The document was published on the day that a British Christian aid worker was murdered by the Taliban and in the month that up to 15,000 Iraqi Christians were forced to flee from Islamist gunmen in Mosul and 100 of the faithful were killed by mobs in Orissa, India.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the leader of Catholics in England and Wales, called the report "very disturbing reading" and said it "shows clearly and concisely what it is that Christians endure for their beliefs".John Pontifex, spokesman for Aid to the Church in Need, said: "Religious extremism is being linked to national identity and Christianity is perceived as a threat to the emergence of that new national identity. The extremists see the identity of Orissa being linked to the Hindu religion, and so the presence of Christians is seen as a provocation." The index is based on the recently issued Persecuted and Forgotten?, the charity's annual report on Christians oppressed for their faith. Mr Pontifex said the reports from their contacts in the countries affected suggested that persecution and intolerance were increasing.

"The anecdotal evidence suggests only one conclusion: the situation is getting manifestly worse," he said. "Christians in areas where they have lived for donkey's years are now threatened with being forced to leave, with the possible conclusion that they could be extinguished."

Aid to the Church in Need was founded in 1947 by Werenfried van Straaten, a Dutch priest, to help German refugees. But while it once operated mostly in Communist Eastern Europe, in recent years the majority of its work has come to be in the Islamic world, where anti-Christian violence is widespread.

On Monday the Taliban killed a British Christian aid worker in Afghanistan for "spreading her religion". Gayle Williams, 34, worked with handicapped, blind and deaf Afghans for the non-denominational Christian charity Serving Emergency Relief and Vocational Enterprises (SERVE).A Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, said an assassin killed Miss Williams on her way to work in Kabul "because she was working for an organisation which was preaching Christianity".Converting from Islam to Christianity carries the death sentence in Afghanistan. Friends and colleagues of the aid worker said that the organisation had a strict policy against proselytising.

Afghanistan is one of many Islamic countries where conversion to Christianity carries severe punishments. In Sudan apostasy carries the death penalty and in Pakistan blasphemy laws are used to oppress religious minorities and there has also been a dramatic increase in the number of anti-Christian attacks.In other countries instability or anarchy has led to increased persecution. Several thousand Iraqi Christians remain displaced after two weeks of violence in the city of Mosul that left at least 13 Christians dead. A church was firebombed in the city last Tuesday as the country's leading Shia cleric condemned the ongoing attacks.

Some 800 Christians have been murdered since the US-led invasion in 2003 and half the country's 800,000 faithful have fled the country. Last week Iraq's leading Catholic churchman, the Chaldean patriarch Cardinal Emmanuel-Karim Delly of Baghdad, described the "disastrous and tragic" situation in his country at the Synod of Bishops on the Bible in Rome, saying life in Iraq was like the Way of the Cross for many people."Peace and security are lacking, just as the basic elements for daily life are lacking," he said, drawing applause from more than 200 bishops.

Although most of the countries on the index are majority Muslim, India has seen some of the worst violence. Even before the recent Orissa massacre the Global Council of Indian Christians collected evidence of 500 cases of anti-Christian violence between January 2006 and November 2007.
In Orissa, in the east of the country, more than 100 Christians have been killed in the past month and 25,000 displaced after violence triggered by the assassination of a Hindu nationalist by Communists. Over 4,400 houses and 151 churches or chapels were destroyed by mobs and more than 18,000 people injured.

Mr Pontifex said it was all part of a growing trend. "A common theme among these countries - and other serial offenders such as Egypt and northern Nigeria and Saudi Arabia - is the rise of religious fundamentalism, Islamist but also Hindu and Buddhist," he said. "In the majority of the countries included there are strong signs that the situation for Christians has worsened, in some cases markedly so - even in the last two years. Algeria, Eritrea, Iraq and Pakistan stand out very strongly. Now the situation is so grave that one must ask: 'What, if any, future is there for Christians in these countries?"

In Algeria 30 churches were forcibly closed in the first half of 2008 and new laws against proselytising were introduced, and against the distribution of religious literature that could "shake the faith of a Muslim". There have also been dramatic increases in extremist violence in West Java, Indonesia, while in Iran "modesty patrols" enforce strict rules against everyone, including non-Muslims. One area of particular concern is Turkey, the officially secular Muslim majority state which has seen a marked increase in anti-Christian attacks.

Atheist regimes such as North Korea and Belarus continue to oppress the faithful. In North Korea some 300,000 Christians have disappeared since 1953 and some 80,000 are thought to be in labour camps. However, some small improvements have been made, with Christian aid workers now allowed into the country.In China at least 12 Catholic bishops remain behind bars "or in some way prevented from carrying out their ministry", said the report. The day before the close of the Olympics 73-year-old Bishop Julius Jia Zhigou was arrested for the 12th time in four years.

But the situation is improving in some countries, such as Cuba and Vietnam. Outside the former Communist world, however, all evidence points to growing "religious extremism linked to national identity with the aim of extinguishing the Christian community", Mr Pontifex said.

"The acts of intimidation are demonstrably more serious," he added. "Their objective is clearer - to get Christians to leave or convert. We ourselves are a minority group in parts of the world and we have the right to stand up for ourselves. And the wider media should pay attention. We like to think that the right to religious liberty can be taken for granted in the 21st century. The research presented in these reports shows it cannot, and that unless we take up the struggle on their behalf, many Christians will continue to be denied the right to freely practise their faith."


Aid to the Church in Need's Index of Persecution and the book Persecuted and Forgotten? are available for download on www.acnuk.org. For a hard-copy version of Persecuted and Forgotten? 2007/2008, please contact Aid to the Church in Need, 12-14 Benhill Avenue, Sutton, Surrey SM1 4DA (Tel 020 8642 8668). A donation to help cover costs would be appreciated.



Comments


More Europe

Forced into prostitution: Greece's economic crisis has married women, mothers hitting streets Watch

Image of The situation of Grecian streets is worsening, as many of the Greek women now turning to prostitution don't bear even a passing resemblance to the drug-addled stereotype of the

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Greece, at the heart of the European economic crisis of a few years past, has elected the "anti-austerity" organization the Syriza Party into office. Mass unemployment remains, with more than 50 percent on the nation's young people without work. An even seedier ... continue reading


The first tax revolt: 800 years later, the Magna Carta stands boldly as spiritual predecessor to the Bill of Rights and U.S. Constitution Watch

Image of A copy of the Magna Carta on display.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

This year will mark the eighth centennial of the signing of the Magna Carta by King John at Runnymede near Windsor, on June 15, 2015. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The Magna Carta was one of the first documents that limited the power of the English crown, and ... continue reading


VIDEO: 70 years later, drone flies over infamous death camps showing the shocking and HORRIBLE extent of Nazi death camps Watch

Image of The gates of the Auschwitz death camp, which in English say

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In 2015, more than 1,500 survivors of the Holocaust returned to the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland to mark the 60th anniversary of the death camp's liberation by Soviet troops. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - On January 27, event organizers are ... continue reading


FEAR GRIPS VATICAN: 'Islamic State is clear. They want to kill the Pope' Watch

Image of Pope Francis has frequently spoken out against the Islamic State group. The Holy See has also voiced its support for U.S. air strikes in Iraq. This has led several to think that this increases the Pope's likelihood as a terrorist target.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Vatican is under heightened concern that a terrorist attack may be imminent. Iraq's ambassador to the Holy See, Habib Al Sadr, at the time warned that "what has been declared by the self-declared Islamic State is clear. They want to kill the Pope. The ... continue reading


Is Hitler funny? Leader of far-right German party steps down over inappropriate selfie Watch

Image of PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West) is a German far-right group which is for deporting or denying entry for Muslims into Europe.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks earlier this month, as well as the numerous acts of terror perpetrated by Muslims throughout Europe over the last several years, Germany is seeing a resurgence of far-right radical groups whose attitudes and ... continue reading


Incredible footage of Lamborghini crashing at 200 MILES PER HOUR! Watch

Image of A Lamborghini Huracan crashed on the M7 motorway going 208 miles per hour. Both passenger and driver survived.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Hungarian police have released footage of the first ever Lamborghini Huracan crash at more than 200 miles per hour. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - In 2014 it was reported that a crash over 200mph occurred. A Huracan registered in the Czech Republic hit a barrier ... continue reading


Five bodies found in ancient tomb - could they be Alexander the Great and his mother? Watch

Image of Many experts have discounted the Alexander theory. They say the ancient emperor was more likely buried in Egypt.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Archaeologists have unearthed bones from at least five people in an uncovered ancient tomb in Greece. Among those discovered was a woman aged over 60, a newborn baby, two men aged between 35 and 45 years of age and another adult of indeterminate age. Since the ... continue reading


If European cities say so - Uber Taxi could create 50,000 jobs Watch

Image of Uber Taxi has been hit with court injunctions in Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain. Uber has also faced protests from taxi firms in major cities, including London.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Travis Kalanick, chief executive officer of Uber Taxi said in Munich that Uber Taxi could create 50,000 jobs as part of a "new partnership" with European cities. Kalanick says he wants to make 2015 a year of rapid expansion in Europe. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic ... continue reading


Why the Islamic State's systematic recruitment of European Muslims is a threat to us all Watch

Image of Lone Wolf terrorism is a new symptom of the Islamist war against Western nations and their values.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Muslims from countries in the Middle East make up the largest percentage of members of the Islamic State and other radical Islamist groups. Local Muslims in the Middle East and North Africa constitute the core membership of most Islamist groups; but a new trend is ... continue reading


Will Greece's emergency elections spell the end for European recovery? Watch

Image of Protests, violence and demonstrations from the Greek liberal and leftists threaten the fledgling recovery of the struggling Greek economy.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Greece has faced a struggling economy for the better part of a decade, since the worldwide recession hit back in 2008 and 2009, though amplified starting in 2010. Through these turbulent years, unemployment, government corruption and welfare requests have ... continue reading


All Europe News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Hebrews 10:11-18
11 Every priest stands at his duties every day, ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 110:1, 2, 3, 4
1 [Of David Psalm] Yahweh declared to my Lord, 'Take ... Read More

Gospel, Mark 4:1-20
1 Again he began to teach them by the lakeside, but ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for January 28th, 2015 Image

St. Thomas Aquinas
January 28: St. Thomas Aquinas, priest and doctor of the Church, patron of ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter