Persecuted and Forgotten? A Report on Christians Oppressed for their Faith: 2013-2015
by Aid to the Church in Need.
Reviewed by John MorrisseyThis survey by Aid to the Church in Need makes for depressing reading. It describes the dire situation in which Christians find themselves in ten areas of conflict or government oppression. These include the Middle East, China, Vietnam, Sub-Saharan Africa, North Korea, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Short pieces portray their plight, with illustrations, and the stories of inspiring individual victims personalise the events and conditions described. There is a foreword by Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart, Melkite Greek Catholic of Aleppo, Syria.
Atrocities perpetrated by Daesh/IS begin the brief chapters, along with the near extinction of 2,000 years of Christians in Iraq, the descendants of whom are killed or refugees never to return. There follow reports of crackdowns and church-burnings in some provinces of China, largely inflicted on Catholic and Protestant congregations not compliant with government regulation and control. Elder Huang Quirui's refusal to join the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of Protestant churches has cost him two years hard labour and his congregation some heavy fines.
We hear little of the church in Vietnam, and even less of Christianity in North Korea. Although Christianity is recognised in Vietnam, in some provinces its treatment by the authorities is similar to that in China, with leaders gaoled for lengthy terms. In North Korea there are an estimated 50,000 Christians in concentration camps, executions have occurred for the crime of owning Bibles, and the few churches which are tolerated exist as a facade for the outside world.
Elsewhere, mainly in the Muslim world, Christianity is suppressed under strict laws, as in Saudi Arabia, or persecuted in spite of alleged religious freedom, as in Pakistan, where the story of Asia Bibi is set. She was sentenced to death on trumped-up blasphemy charges, and her case also led to her sympathisers in high places being assassinated. Eritrea also gaols Christians for their beliefs and many have fled as refugees. A similar fate befell those who fled north from the war in South Sudan, only to face persecution for their beliefs.
The only good news since 2015 is that Australia's Immigration minister, Peter Dutton, is quietly implementing Tony Abbott's departing policy initiative of settling persecuted minorities in Australia, reported in occasional items in The Australian.