“Christianity as the world’s largest religion is also most affected by violation of religious freedoms,” says Petra Bosse-Huber, a bishop at the Protestant Church in Germany. Moreover, in recent years, repression has steadily worsened: Christian minorities are the target of terrorist attacks, they are prevented from professing their religion and are victims of social isolation as well as discrimination,” she points out.
Fear of terrorist attacks
The opinion of Matthias Vogt, secretary general of the Catholic Society of the Holy Land, is similar. And according to him, the pressure over Christians is increasing. This is especially true of Africa and Asia – where Christian religious freedom is threatened along several lines: “One is Hindu nationalism in India, where it is increasingly difficult for Christians to obtain guarantees of their rights from the Delhi government.
The second threat comes from authoritarian and former communist regimes such as North Korea and Vietnam, which severely restrict religious freedoms,” Vogt added.
There is also another big problem in the Middle East, says Vogt: especially in Saudi Arabia, where a state religion is Wahhabi Islam – as in West Africa, especially in Nigeria, where Christians are exposed to attacks by the terrorist group Boko Haram.
Far from the Middle East
It is particularly depressing that over years more Christians have been leaving the Middle East. A hundred years ago in the declining Ottoman Empire they accounted for 20 percent of the population, whereas today they are less than five percent. The flows of Christians fleeing Iraq and Syria have been particularly intense lately. In the area between the Tigris and the Euphrates since the fall of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, the number of Christians has fallen from 1.5 million to 200,000. And two-thirds of Christians have fled Syria through the civil war – more than a million people.
This year, because of the pandemic, the exodus is not so massive, but the situation of Christians in the Middle East has not improved, Vogt stresses. Around the world, the pandemic has only made things worse: “The crisis caused by the coronavirus has increased poverty, respectively – the influx of people to extremist groups.” Vogt explains that this is also the reason why in Nigeria, for example, it is becoming more and more dangerous for Christians.
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