‘Do not turn your back on persecuted Christians’ – new Global Guide launched
A growth in extremism and increasing government control over religion in some regions are among the trends noted in the fourth edition of the Church in Chains Global Guide. The Global Guide aims to raise awareness in Ireland about the situation of persecuted Christians around the world by giving an overview of what is happening in 60 countries. It also seeks to motivate people to respond.
The Global Guide was launched in Buswells Hotel in Dublin on Thursday March 2 by the Revd Trevor Sargent, Rector of Bunclody Union, who appealed to Christians not to ignore the plight of persecuted Christians but to “be a voice for those who cannot speak or seek justice the way we can”.
The Guide divides the countries into three colour coded categories – severe (where many or all Christians face persecution including imprisonment, torture, murder or violent mob attacks), significant (where some, but not all, Christians face arrest, attack or serious restrictions) and limited (where some churches or individual Christians face restrictions or discrimination).
David Turner, director of Church in Chains, explained that the new Global Guide documents how persecution of Christians is increasing right across the globe – from Latin America to some countries in Europe; from the Middle East to a growing number of countries in Sub–Saharan Africa; from the former Soviet states of Central Asia through the religiously diverse countries of South Asia to the communist–led countries in East Asia.
A number of TDs and people working in Government departments attended the launch and Mr Turner said: “The persecution of Christians worldwide has been ignored for far too long by successive Irish governments which have repeatedly stated a commitment to prioritising freedom of religion or belief in foreign policy. Regrettably, Irish governments have not followed this through by raising individual cases of persecution of Christians directly with the governments that are actively persecuting Christians or facilitating the persecution of Christians. This new Guide demonstrates the overwhelming need for action to give credence to their words.”
Researcher and writer with Church in Chains, Virginia Chipperfield, highlighted some trends that became apparent during the writing of the fourth edition of the Global Guide. One striking trend was the expansion in sub–Saharan Africa of militant groups affiliated to Islamic State. “These groups attack Christians, government forces and institutions and moderate Muslims and are increasingly spreading into countries where Christians and Muslims previously co–existed peacefully. These regions are now experiencing the kind of violence that has beset Nigeria for years,” she commented. They noticed a similar growth of extremism in South Asia.
Another trend was the increasing government control of religion, particularly evident in Central Asia and East Asia. China was typical of this where government restrictions are part of a campaign to control all religions.
Ms Chipperfield said there had been an improvement in some countries, notably Egypt where positive government actions in promoting religious tolerance and supporting churches had made a difference to the Coptic community. Reforms in Sudan had led to advances in religious freedom, she said although there had been a setback since the military coup in 2021. In the Middle East there had been a sharp reduction of violence in Iraq and Syria which had led to some improvements in religious freedom although Christians continued to flee.
Launching the Global Guide, Mr Sargent said that the document highlighted abuse of human rights and tapped into the consciences of anyone with a concern for human rights. It provided an accessible way to take action and he pointed out that Church in Chains organises a letter writing team to write to ambassadors, presidents and government officials.
“Where there is injustice, and climate change has a big part to play, there is a tendency to blame the person closest to you. In the case of a community, often the minority religion is blamed. There is a need to examine the root causes but today is a day to ask how we can respond… There are a lot of Christians in this country who are turning their backs by doing nothing. I appeal to all Christians to reach out, as Jesus Christ did, to the marginalised or persecuted… Globally there are over 200 million Christians who have to make the decision to speak out or hide away for fear of being persecuted. There are Christians around the world who do speak out. Church in Chains has done the heavy lifting. All we are asked to do is choose a country and write a letter. There is a template. This makes it very easy to be a voice for those who cannot speak or seek justice in the way we can,” he stated.
Every TD and Senator was sent a copy of the Global Guide and they were asked to sign a petition seeking the reversal of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.
You can find out more about Church in Chains and the Global Guide at www.churchinchains.ie