(An interesting extract from an article written by the respected journalist John Allen)
Over the last three weeks, Christians and others concerned with religious freedom have been watching the drama play out in Pakistan, where Asia Bibi was finally released from nine years on death row on a blasphemy charge only to be forced into hiding inside the country with no clear exit strategy for asylum.
Bibi, an illiterate Catholic mother of five, at least has the good fortune that her case has become something of an international cause célèbre, so it garners steady media and political attention. Yet hers is hardly an isolated story, with most other victims of religious persecution around the world languishing in silence.
In this context, it’s worth revisiting a landmark study released in the spring of 2017 by “Under Caesar’s Sword”, a joint partnership between Notre Dame (Catholic University in Indiana) and the Washington based Religious Freedom Institute, which is devoted to understanding global Christian communities. In this case, the study focused on Christian responses to persecution in 25 nations, generally those where anti-Christian oppression is the strongest and most violent.
Although there are several annual reports on religious freedom violations worldwide, few focus specifically on anti-Christian persecution, and this is the first to ever ponder not merely the fact of oppression but how Christians respond to it.
In terms of why the focus on Christians, the study couldn’t have been clearer: “In short, Christians are the most widely targeted religious community, suffering terrible persecution globally.”
Further, the study noted another compelling reason for the focus on Christians: “Perhaps the most troubling aspect of this persecution is the lack of press coverage it receives … the mainstream media and human rights organizations give it little attention.”
As an example, the study noted that during a period from 2008 to 2011, Human Rights Watch, one of the world’s most respected watchdog groups, devoted just 2.5 percent of its reports to religious persecution of any sort, and fewer than half that number included Christians. This despite the fact that the low-end estimate for the number of Christians killed for their faith around the world every year works out to one new martyr almost every hour of every day.