Christians being persecuted

Despite notable instances of religious intolerance, religious persecution rarely takes place in the United States. Because of this, it can be easy to forget that a significant number of the world’s population experiences religious persecution on a daily basis.

Religious persecution is essentially the violation of a person’s right to religious freedom. Article 18 of the Declaration of Human Rights states that “everyone has the right to freedom of … religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

Religious persecution can take many forms, from denying the right of group assembly to compulsory conversions, torture and death. According to the Center for Studies on New Religions, which studies deaths resulting from religious persecution, 2016 saw more than 90,000 Christians killed for their religious beliefs. The study reports that 30 percent of those killed were the victims of Islamic terrorism, and about 70 percent of those persecuted were in Africa, often killed at the hands of groups such as Boko Haram. The full report on religious persecution will be released by the Center for Studies on New Religions in February.

Breitbart News reported that Massimo Introvigne, director of the Center, “told Vatican Radio that around half a billion Christians in the world are unable to express their faith completely freely, while around 90,000 — one every six minutes — died for their faith in the past year alone.”

PJ Media said that the countries with the most violence against Christians are Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, Libya and Pakistan, and that “North Korea tops the list of countries with the most extreme persecution against Christians.”

Although the numbers are staggering, persecution against Christians is decreasing. There were fewer Christians killed for their faith in 2016 than 2015, when 105,000 Christians were killed for their faith.

Some countries have responded to concerns about religious persecution. PJ Media reported that the Hungarian government has taken steps to address religious persecution by appointing a deputy state secretary for assisting persecuted Christians in September. This position is newly created, and specifically targets persecution of Christians.

While Christianity remains the most persecuted religion in the world, members of every religion experience persecution for their faith. Religious persecution remains an extensive global issue that is often overlooked due to its controversial nature. Decreasing persecution requires local groups, countries and the international community to acknowledge and address it.