Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic two years ago, there is one curve that has never stopped growing: it is that of the persecution of Christians around the world. This is testified by the report World Watch List 2022 of the NGO “Open Doors”, presented yesterday in Italy at the Chamber of Deputies.
Here is some data.
- The number of countries with a level of persecution defined as “high”, “very high” or “extreme” rose from 74 to 76.
- Persecuted Christians increased from 340 million to 360 million (+5.8%, or 1 in every 7).
- Christians arrested without trial went up 44.3% (from 4,277 to 6,175).
- Those killed for faith-related reasons grew by more than 23% (from 4,761 to 5,898 in total) and those kidnapped by as much as 123.9% (from 1,710 to 3,829 in all).
- There is also an upward trend in churches and sacred buildings being subject to aggression (+13.8%, from 4,488 to 5,110).
The most dangerous places to be a Christian
“Open Doors” compiles an annual ranking of the countries where anti-Christian persecution is most fierce. In the latest report, there is a change in the upper echelons of this list.
After twenty years at the top, North Korea–despite a recent resurgence against Christians–has been displaced by Afghanistan. The Taliban’s seizure of power and the resulting crisis propel the violation of fundamental freedoms. It should be noted, however, that Afghanistan was in second place last year; so religious freedom was a pipe dream even before the Taliban arrived. On the lowest step of this unenviable podium is Somalia, followed by Libya, Yemen, Eritrea, Nigeria and Pakistan.
The China model
In his remarks to the Chamber, Cristian Nani, director of Open Doors, emphasized the “centralized control model of religious freedom that China is using.” It’s a model, he explained, that is being exported to other countries in Asia. “This means that China’s influence in the world of persecution goes beyond the 17th place occupied in the ranking.”
The COVID-19 thruster
Nani then wanted to emphasize, for the second year in a row, how COVID-19 and its restrictions have proven to be “an accelerator of social and economic vulnerability for Christians.” The director of “Open Doors” says that Christians “are relegated to the last of the line in the distribution of aid or medical care.” So authoritarian governments or criminal organizations, he added, “use COVID-19 to harass Christian communities.”
With regard to governments that promote discrimination or persecution of Christians, Andrea Delmastro, deputy of Fratelli d’Italia and president of the Parliamentary Intergroup for the Defense of Religious Freedom of Christians Worldwide, reiterated the issue of respect for religious minorities in every bilateral treaty involving Italy. On this point, he announced that as part of a resolution on the Indo-Pacific area, “we managed to introduce the issue of making cooperation with China conditional on a timetable from Beijing on respect for religious rights.”