“State authoritarianism” across Asia restricted the freedom of people to worship, according to a new report on global persecution of Christians released on Wednesday, November 16.
“In varying degrees, from tightening constraints in Vietnam to an almost total ban in North Korea, state authoritarianism restricts – or even strangles – believers’ ability to worship freely,” reads the report released by the group Aid to the Church in Need ACN.
The report includes information from ACN offices around the world and other local sources and provides testimonies, compilations of incidents, case studies, and country analysis on persecution of Christians.
It says that in Asia, attempts to regulate the believers’ practice of their faith “are not unique… (but) are characteristic of a number of countries.”
The report finds North Korea, where religious belief and practice are routinely and systematically repressed, “at its worst.”
The report, titled “Persecuted and Forgotten? A Report on Christians oppressed for their Faith 2020-22,” notes that China “continues to harass and attempt to control Christians and members of other religious groups that will not accept the official Communist Party line.”
“In [Myanmar], the army has renewed attacks on Christians, following a lull during Aung San Suu Kyi’s administration,” the report’s executive summary reads.
“Despite the junta’s previous promotion of Buddhism as the country’s social norm, they are now targeting pagodas as well as churches, as they attack anyone perceived to oppose their 2021 coup,” it adds.
The report says “religio-nationalism” has also played a significant role in repressing Christianity and other minority faith groups in Asia.
“Religious nationalism has triggered increasing violence against Christians in the region, with Hindutva and Sinhalese Buddhist nationalist groups active in India and Sri Lanka, respectively,” says the report, adding that authorities have arrested believers and stopped Church services.
India saw 710 incidents of anti-Christian violence between January 2021 and the start of June 2022, driven in part by political extremism.
The report cites Afghanistan as “the worst offender, with the Taliban imposing a hard-line interpretation of Shari‘a law on society.”
“The Maldives also rigidly imposes Islam, even refusing citizenship for non-Muslims,” says the report, while in India and Sri Lanka, “religio-nationalism is not as all-encompassing, but leads to ongoing attacks against Christians and other minorities.”
The report says jihadists and nationalists around the world are driving increased persecution of Christians.
“Persecuted and Forgotten?” finds that in 75 percent of the 24 countries surveyed, oppression or persecution of Christians has increased.
Africa saw a sharp rise in terrorist violence from non-state militants with more than 7,600 Nigerian Christians reportedly murdered between January 2021 and June 2022.
The report says a “migration crisis” threatened the survival of some of the world’s oldest Christian communities in the Middle East.
In Syria, Christians plummeted from 10 percent of the population to less than two percent – falling from 1.5 million just before the war began to around 300,000 today.
While the rate of exodus is slower in Iraq, a community that numbered around 300,000 before the 2014 invasion by the so-called Islamic State had halved to 150,000 by Spring 2022.
“Persecuted and Forgotten?” also found that in countries as diverse as Egypt and Pakistan, Christian girls are routinely subject to systematic kidnapping and rape.