Survey by Aid to the Church in Need sees major jump from one year ago.
The percentage of American Catholics who think that persecution of Christians around the world is “very severe” has jumped significantly over the past year — from 41% a year ago to 57% today, according to a papal foundation assisting persecuted Christians.
A new survey also finds that 67% of American Catholics say they are “very concerned” about the issue.
In addition, almost 50% of U.S. Catholics believe that half or more of religiously based attacks around the world are directed at Christians. They identify China, North Korea and Pakistan as the top three countries where Christians are most severely persecuted.
The fourth annual nationwide poll examining the views of U.S. Catholics on the global persecution of Christians was conducted in February by McLaughlin & Associates for Aid to the Church in Need-USA (ACNUSA). The survey aimed to measure:
- The extent to which American Catholics are aware of Christian persecution around the world.
- The countries and regions where they consider Christians most severely persecuted.
- Specific measures and policies they want the US and other Western governments to pursue.
- The extent to which they feel that the Pope, their bishops, and their parishes are making the issue of Christian persecution a priority.
- Actions they believe they can and should take themselves.
Joop Koopman, spokesman for Aid to the Church in Need USA, attributed the rise in awareness of Christian persecution to more coverage of the issue in Catholic and Christian press, and “more noise” from American Catholic bishops. Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan’s election last November as chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference Committee on Religious Liberty played a role in that.
In addition, Koopman said, the survey was conducted on the eve of Pope Francis’ apostolic voyage to Iraq, and news of the upcoming trip focused on the plight of Christians there and throughout the Near East.
The survey found that 65% of U.S. Catholics rank diplomatic pressure as very important, up from 55% a year ago; economic sanctions on countries are considered to be “very important” by 62% of American Catholics (up from 53%); 60% (up from 52%) favor emergency asylum; and 55% (up from 48%) support financial aid to persecuted Christians.
“It is heartening that, compared to a year ago, significantly more U.S. Catholics say that Christian persecution around the world is very grave and that the issue has become a matter of concern to more faithful. They also want both their Church and their government to step up efforts to do more to combat the issue,” said George Marlin, ACNUSA chairman.
Marlin said the poll shows a need to inform the public regarding specific instances of Christian persecution. Low percentages of respondents seemed to know that in Pakistan last year, 1,000 primarily Christian underage girls were abducted and threatened with forcible conversion to Islam, for example.
“The U.S. bishops and organizations like our own must step up our educational and informational efforts,” Marlin said. “It is my hope that leaders around the world embrace the fundamental human right of religious freedom, and promote a society that respects ethnic, cultural and especially religious diversity.”
The survey results can be read here.