Persecution of Christians rise in 2018

Assassinations, churches attacked, daily pressure: The persecutions of Christians rose in 2018 for the sixth year in a row, says the NGO Open Doors on the occasion of the publication of its annual “index” on January 16.

This Protestant organisation follows the situation in 50 countries where Christians experience both violence and sometimes even murder, but also oppression or discrimination on a daily basis.

A total of 245 million Christians – Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, Baptists, Evangelicals, Pentecostals, Christian expats, converts – are persecuted, or “one in nine Christians,” according to the organisation, while a year ago, this figure stood at 1 out of 12.

The number of Christians killed rose from 3 066 to 4 305 between November 2017 and October 2018, an increase of 40 percent. “The index reveals a persecution against Christian minorities that is growing year by year. In 2018 it continued,” says Michel Varton, director of Open Doors.

“What is striking is that Africa has become the home of violence against Christians, with 4 165 killed.” Nigeria alone has 3 731 deaths on its soil [against 2 000 in 2017], he told AFP.

This country faces a double threat, that of the jihadist group Boko Haram which is “more and more violent”, and that of “Fulani tribal herders, who descend to the south of the country and systematically attack Christian villages”.

Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, Pakistan, Sudan, Eritrea, Yemen, Iran, India and Syria are all countries classified by the NGO as places where “extreme persecution” takes place.

The NGO estimated that “Islamic extremism,” from “Africa to the Middle East to Asia,” is “in 38 of the 50 countries in the index, an important factor in the persecution of Christians”.

Other figures in this index show that in one year, “the number of targeted churches closed, attacked, damaged, burned … nearly doubled, from 793 to 1 847”, while “the number of Christians detained rose from 1 905 to 3 150” in the same period.

Among the countries that the NGO intends to alert public opinion, is Algeria, where “since November 2017, committees representing the Algerian authorities visit the churches of the EPA [Protestant Church of Algeria] under the pretext of sanitary inspection, forcing of many of them to close down,” it said.

“We are still living in a situation where maybe tomorrow [they] come with an order to close down the church,” Youssef Ourahmane, an Algerian pastor and vice president of the EPA, told AFP. t

He has been targeted by several assassination attempts because of his religion. “They want to choke us. We always live in fear.”

The NGO also pointed to China, where “religious freedom is abused” and where the situation has “deteriorated”.

In China there are 100 million Christians, “state persecution was up to last year still rife in certain provinces” but it “is now becoming a national phenomenon”. In total, the number of Christian detainees and targeted churches in China has increased tenfold in one year.

Open Doors, a partner of Open Doors International [which operates in 60 countries], also warned that its figures, which only concern assassinations “proven certain” on the basis of information cross-referenced, are “lower than in reality”.

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