Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Ed West

10/24/2008 (5 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 (5 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

Pope hailed as 'pontiff of the poor' by noted Greek atheist and leftist leader Watch

Image of Alexis Tsipras, Greece's opposition leader and a renowned atheist and leftist, met with Pope Francis as part of starting a dialogue between the Church and leftists in Europe.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Alexis Tsipras, a radical leftists and self-described atheist-as well as Greece's opposition leader-has hailed Pope Francis as the "pontiff of the poor" after a meeting at the Vatican. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Tsipras, one of the loudest critics of ... continue reading


New apostolic constitution to overhaul Vatican drawn up by Council of Cardinals Watch

Image of The nine cardinals will help advise the Pope on the reform of the Vatican's organization and church governance. Discussions are reportedly now more

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis' international Council of Cardinals have begun a first draft of a new apostolic constitution intended to reform Vatican bureaucracy. Appointed by Pope Francis, the so-called "C-9" of nine cardinal members held its sixth meeting this week. LOS ... continue reading


Until death 'til they part - and then some! Skeletons hold hands for centuries Watch

Image of The skeletons were placed together in this position, as there was enough room in the grave to have them buried apart, according to Vicki Score, ULAS project manager.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

It was a remarkable find - and a reminder on how love can last past the grave. Two skeletons, holding hands centuries after their passing, were discovered in an old, British churchyard. Fingers still entwined, the couple was found in a site that overlooks the ... continue reading


Who was the mysterious third tribe that formed gene pool with primitive Europeans? Watch

Image of Hunter-gatherers arrived in Europe thousands of years before the advent of agriculture. These hunters took shelter in the south during the Ice Age and then expanded during a period called the Mesolithic, after the ice sheets had retreated from central and northern Europe.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Researchers at Harvard medical School have definitely linked at least three tribes that combined to create Europeans of 7,000 years ago. Scientists say that blue-eyed hunters with olive skin mingled with brown-eyed, fair-completed farmers as these tillers swept ... continue reading


Pope Francis and St Augustine Speak to Bishops

Image of Francis encouraged these men, called to be shepherds of the flock of Christ, to be men of courage. He charged them to overcome the initial fears which can accompany the daunting task entrusted to them by the Lord and His Church.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

This week, Pope Francis met with all of the Bishops who received their appointments in the past year. They are all participating in a training session which is held at the Vatican every year. Francis, the Bishop of Rome, told his brothers they were  - the ... continue reading


Shakespearean villain Richard III died from battle wounds Watch

Image of King Richard III suffered a total of 11 wounds around the time of his death. According to analysis, Richard suffered nine wounds to his skull and two to the rest of his body.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Classical Shakespearean villain and colorful historical figure King Richard III died from a particularly brutal blow to the skull he suffered in battle. A forensic analysis of his skeleton gave scientists' clues to his final moments. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic ... continue reading


Millions displaced from homes due to natural disasters Watch

Image of Last year, seasonal floods caused significant displacements in sub-Saharan Africa, notably in Niger, Chad, Sudan and South Sudan, countries also affected by conflict and drought.

By Laura Onita, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Almost 22 million people were forced to flee their homes due to natural disasters last year and the numbers uprooted could increase as urban populations grow, a refugee agency said on Wednesday. (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The majority were in Asia, where 19 million ... continue reading


Pope Francis invites Chinese President Xi Jinping to meet with him Watch

Image of It's not yet known how Chinese President Xi Jinping will respond to Pope Francis' request for a special meeting.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis has reportedly invited the President of China, Xi Jinping to meet with him, either in the Vatican or Beijing. The pontiff wants to speak to the president in order to build a lasting global peace, which the Pope says is engaged in a "piecemeal" ... continue reading


Marriage and Holiness: Pope Marries Twenty Couples on the Exaltation of the Cross Watch

Image of One of the twenty couples who exchanged their vows in the presence of Pope Francis

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

Much of the Press, including circles of the Catholic Press, focused on the unique path which some of the couples followed to the Sacrament of Marriage; even though they had all arrived at the Altar, offering their love to the Source of all true Love, for ... continue reading


Pope Francis Gives Impassioned Plea for an End to War: What Does it Matter to Me? Watch

Image of Pope Francis walks inside the Austro-Hungarian cemetery at Fogliano in Redipuglia September 13, 2014. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

By Catholic Online

With this - What does it matter to me?-  in their hearts, the merchants of war perhaps have made a great deal of money, but their corrupted hearts have lost the capacity to cry.  That - What does it matter to me?- prevents the tears.  Cain did not ... 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, Isaiah 55:6-9
6 Seek out Yahweh while he is still to be found, call ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 145:2-3, 8-9, 17-18
2 Day after day I shall bless you, I shall praise ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 20:1-16
1 'Now the kingdom of Heaven is like a landowner ... Read More

Reading 2, Philippians 1:20-24, 27
20 all in accordance with my most confident hope and ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for September 21st, 2014 Image

St. Matthew
September 21: St. Matthew, one of the twelve Apostles, is the author of the ... 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