New report reveals 75 percent of religious persecution is against Christians

Archbishop Vincent Nichols, and Archbishop Bashar Warder

Archbishop Vincent Nichols, and Archbishop Bashar Warder

Aid to the Church in Need has published a new report which reveals that Christians suffer 75 per cent of religious persecution in the world. The Archbishop of Westminster, Most Rev Vincent Nichols, and Archbishop Bashar Warder of Erbil, Iraq  launched: 'Persecuted and Forgotten? A report on Christians oppressed for their Faith' in London on Thursday. Written by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) the report describes the situation in 33 countries, drawing on recent accounts and first hand testimony revealing the struggles faced by Christian communities who are prevented from practicing their faith and living normal lives.

Archbishop Bashar explained that as the world’s most persecuted people, Christians are aware of their “daily vulnerability, be they politician, Church leader, or simply a member of a Christian family”.

Msgr Bashar spoke of recent atrocities. These include the assassination of Christian Pakistani Minister Shahbaz Bhatti earlier this month, and the siege of the Syrian Catholic Cathedral in Baghdad in October 2010, which left more than 50 people dead and 70 injured. He stated that "now, as the struggles are growing ever worse, we must not hide our faith".

Many of the stories in the ACN’s report are distressing and disturbing to read. They make us question: if humanity is something that binds us, where is our humanity in the acts of such brutality?  What happens to our dignity as human beings, collectively, as well as individually when people are persecuted and killed due to their faith and beliefs?

Both Archbishops defended the role of religion in society. Archbishop Nichols highlighted Pope Benedict XVI's acknowledgment of the contribution made by the world’s great religions to the development of civilization. He reminded us that the pursuit of freedom of religion is core to our human endeavour. Such pursuit is in itself a formative part of our dignity and humanity; it calls for respect of other faiths, collaboration, and the search for unification, rather than division.

Referring to the Pontiff's Peace message, Monsignor Nichols said: “The sincere search for God has led to greater respect for human dignity". He gave the example, "Christian communities, with their patrimony of values and principles, have contributed much to making individuals and peoples aware of their identity and their dignity”.

Both Archbishops felt that the role of the common man is to raise awareness of the plight of the oppressed. Being witness to suffering leads to intervention through prayer and through action.

Such action is portrayed on the cover of the report which features a picture of a procession of people. At the centre of the procession is a picture of Mary, her portrait fixed at the foot  of a cross. Upon the cross hangs the body of Christ, his arms out stretched. And beneath those outstretched arms, walk his people, holding their messages written in defence of the Christian faith. There is something incredibly victorious about the image. Within it we see humanity, the expression of a faith, the freedom to walk beneath the cross, and most importantly the power to speak up on behalf of the oppressed. Our humanity is found and expressed through the collective struggle to endure and overcome fear and persecution, and to respond with compassion that is at the heart of a Christ-centred faith.

Archbishop Nichols said there was something intangible about faith. Although it can be expressed and voiced through the physicality of our human condition, faith itself cannot be restrained, or maimed or destroyed. Faith, he said:  "has the quality of light that cannot be quelled by darkness. Rather, where darkness is great, the light shines most brightly."

For more information about Aid to the Church in Need including their report see:

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