In 2017, out of the 2.48 billion Christians in the world, 215 million suffered a degree of persecution ranging from "strong to extreme."
“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”
If the year 2017 marks the military defeat of ISIS in the Middle East, it also reflects a return to strength of religious nationalism with a strong intolerance towards minorities. Today, 215 million Christians are severely persecuted around the world – one in twelve Christians – reports the NGO Open Doors in its worldwide index of Christian persecution published annually.
Among these 215 million Christians, Asia (including the Middle East) represents 113.31 million (53 percent), Africa 81.14 million (38 percent), Latin America a little more 20 million (9 percent) and the rest of the world (Europe, North America and Oceania) nearly 12,000 Christians (0.01 percent).
At least 3,066 Christians were killed for reasons related to their beliefs compared to 1,207 a year earlier. This represents an increase of 154 percent. “The relative truce seen in the 2017 index was due to the decline of Boko Haram activities in Nigeria,” said the NGO. However, assassinations have resumed in this country with waves of attacks by the heavily armed Fulani against the Christians of the Middle Belt of the country. Some reports speak of “ethnic cleansing” (on the basis of religious affiliation). In addition, at least 793 churches were targeted, compared to 1,329 the previous year, a decrease of 40 percent. Note that these figures relate only to facts that could be verified with certainty.
The three most violent countries for Christians are Pakistan, Nigeria and the Central African Republic, says the NGO. “In Pakistan, like last year, and without taking into account the attack on the church of Quetta in December 2017 (which took place outside the study period), Pakistan remains in the first place of the ranking in the number of violent attacks, according to the index. This can be explained by the regular attacks of churches (fires, broken windows, electricity cuts), the 700 cases per year of kidnappings, rapes or forced marriages of Christian women and the frequency of riots following rumors of blasphemy.”
This article was first published in the French edition of Aleteia.