Christians are so persecuted that in some parts of the world it's tantamount to genocide, an Anglican bishop claims in a new report.
As BBC News reports, the Right Reverend Philip Mounstephen, the Bishop of Truro, was tasked with documenting persecution of Christians worldwide. His new report, published this week, paints a gruesome picture.
"In some regions, the level and nature of persecution is arguably coming close to meeting the international definition of genocide, according to that adopted by the UN."Mounstephen estimates that, worldwide, one in three individuals, regardless of their faith, are in some way victimized by religious persecution, be it through economic persecution (denial of housing or jobs, for example) or even being at risk of death for practicing their faith.
The 'Stated Objective of Extremist Groups'
Most of the world's 2.4 billion Christians are in Western Europe or the Americas, where freedom of conscience is upheld culturally and by law, and thus they live in peace. But in parts of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, practicing Christianity is tantamount to a death sentence.
"The eradication of Christians and other minorities on pain of 'the sword' or other violent means was revealed to be the specific and stated objective of extremist groups in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, north-east Nigeria and the Philippines."The problem is particularly pronounced in the Middle East, where Christians are often forced into exile lest they risk being put to death. In Iraq, for example, there were an estimated 1.5 million Christians prior to 2003; now that number is down to an estimated 120,000. In Syria the Christian population has declined from 1.7 million in 2011 to below 450,000 at last count. And in Palestine, Christians represent less than 1.5 percent of the population.
"Christianity is at risk of disappearing, representing a massive setback for plurality in the region."The problem manifests itself in a variety of ways. Clergy are kidnapped and killed. Churches are leveled to the ground, and crosses are torn down. And in the case of the Yazidi group, women and girls were raped and even sold into sexual slavery.
'Political Correctness' Hampers International Response
Mounstephen notes that the topic is uncomfortable for Western governments to discuss. In fact, he cited a variety of editorials and reports in various newspapers that back up his claim; namely, that Western governments are loathe to discuss the persecution of Christians for a variety of reasons.
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, for example, claims that "political correctness" has hampered the appropriate worldwide response. That's because, at least in part, Christianity is associated with colonialism and, in the past, forced conversions.
"I think there is a misplaced worry that it is somehow colonialist to talk about a religion that was associated with colonial powers rather than the countries that we marched into as colonisers."However, he notes that in actuality, outside of the Americas and Europe, Christians are "some of the poorest people on the planet."
The report on Christian genocide was released just days after a terrorist attack in Sri Lanka, targeted largely at Christians, killed over 250 people.