Christian Persecution: A Sober Reflection!

640 views | Justine John Dyikuk | January 13, 2021

Today, just like in the book of Acts of the Apostles, Christians are persecuted all over the world because of their faith in Christ. They are the most persecuted religious groups in the world who are oppressed in at least 60 countries (Open Doors, 2019). Christianity faces being “wiped out” from parts of the Middle East. In Palestine, Christians represent less than 1.5% of the population while in Iraq they had fallen from 1.5 million before 2003 to less than 120,000.

There is a geographic spread of anti-Christian persecution globally and its increasing severity dates back to the capture of Antioch in 1517. Studies have indicated that Christians who are persecuted are some of the poorest people on the planet. In many countries, Christians face appalling levels of violence, abuse and harassment (BBC, 2019).

This persecution takes the form of formation of political and economic Jihad through strategic and systemic government policies against Christians, establishing cultural and intellectual Jihad through Hisba and formation of Jihadist militias in Christian dominated countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic for deadly attacks against Christians.

According to the 2019 World Watch List Report, 245 million Christians experience high levels of persecution in countries on the World Watch List (Open Doors, 2019). About 90,000 Christians globally lost their lives in 2018 amidst inaction of the world (Int’l Society for Civil Liberties & Rule of Law). 1 in 9 Christians experience high levels of persecution worldwide. Interestingly, North Korea is ranked #1 for the 18th consecutive year as the most dangerous country for Christians.

Christian women experience “double persecution” for being a Christian and a woman. Not long ago,  India entered the top 10 countries where Christians are persecuted (Open Doors, 2019). China jumped 16 spots, from 43 to 27 in the index -the increased power of the government and the rule of XI Jinping continue to make open worship difficult in some parts of the country.

Hindu nationalists in India continue to attack Christians without consequences. Recall that an erstwhile ISIS and other deadly sects consciously targeted Christians. In seven out of the top 10 World Watch List countries, the primary cause of persecution is Islamic oppression. Millions of Christians who grew up Muslim or were born into Muslim families and decided to openly follow Jesus are treated as second-class citizens and discriminated against for jobs or even violently attacked.

In countries like Vietnam, Myanmar, China and North Korea, there is stricter state control of religious rights (Open Doors, 2019). Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), a deadly splinter group of ISIS that broke away from Boko Haram enslaves Christian women and girls. More than 500 Christians in Nigeria were killed by suspected militant Fulani herders since 2016. No fewer than 2,900-3,000 Christians were hacked to death in 2018, out of the number, not less than 2,400 were killed by Fulani Jihadists or “killer Fulani Herdsmen” (Open Doors, 2019).

Since February, more than 250 Christians have been murdered in Nigeria by either militant Fulani herdsmen or the Islamic terrorist group, Boko Haram. Militant Fulani herders target Christian farmers in the Middle Belt which separates the predominantly Muslim north from the predominantly Christian south (Hough, 2019). Nigeria lost over 400 Christian lives including 130 Children to Fulani Jihadists in three months of 2019 (Int’l Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law, 2019).

Nigeria ranked 12th on Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution (Christianpersecution.com). From Taraba to Plateau, Southern Kaduna to Benue et al, the pattern and consistency of attacks suggests a grand master plan. The viral videos of the beheading of some Nigerians because of their faith in Christ and as a form of retaliation either for the loss of dear ones or cattle which belong to the offenders tell the story more.

In all these, the voices ofpersecutedChristiansinNigeria are gagged. Meanwhile, elsewhere, Christian militias and defensive insurgencies are already up and running in countries like Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, New Zealand, Central African Republic (Anti-Balaka Xian militias) (Int’l Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law, 2019). While the principle of Natural Law has given every human being the right to defend himself or herself against an aggressor in what is called legitimate self-defense, organized crime appears to have superior power.

Although media outfits like the Christian Post Int’l, Jihad Watch, Open Doors, Barnabas Aid Agency, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), Int’l Providence Magazine (a journal of Christianity & American Foreign Policy), Independent Sentinel, Center for Studies on New Religions (Italy), the Breitbart, the Metro Voice News (Int’l Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law, 2019) are doing their best to curb the tide of Christian persecution around the world, they appear to be a judge in their own case.

While The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) and Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) have raised alarm on the unjust treatment of Christiana in Nigeria,  the United Nations and members of the international community ought to complement their efforts by acting fast to salvage the situation. Leah Sharibu, Alice Loksha, Rev. Polycarp Zongo and many others are still in the hands of their abductors. With this, I hope the reader is not left in doubt that being a Christian in our age and time requires heroic witnessing.

Fr.DyikukisaLecturerofMassCommunication,UniversityofJos,Editor–CaritasNewspaperandConvener,MediaTeamNetworkInitiative(MTNI),Nigeria.

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