Upheaval in Islamic world is greatest threat to Christians in 2013
Continuing upheaval in the Islamic world looks set to pose the greatest threat to Christians in 2013, believes Release International ...
Continuing upheaval in the Islamic world looks set to pose the greatest threat to Christians in 2013, believes Release International, which serves persecuted Christians worldwide.
Release has asked its partners to identify areas around the world where Christians face a growing risk of persecution in the coming year.
Three key contexts have emerged – the Islamic world, totalitarian states, such as North Korea, and India, where militant Hinduism is on the rise.
In the Islamic world, of special concern are Egypt, Iran, Pakistan and northern and central Nigeria.
In Egypt, Release partners estimate around 100,000 members of the minority Christian community have left the country since 2011, when Islamic parties dominated the parliamentary elections.
In December 2012, demonstrators were again out in force to voice their opposition to the Islamist-backed draft constitution. Coptic Christians boycotted the referendum on the constitution, warning it represented only the Islamists who drafted it. They fear it will present a further threat to freedom of religion and the rights of minorities. Coptic Christians make up about 11% of Egypt’s population.
But the greatest danger in Egypt is to Christians from a Muslim background, who are considered to have betrayed their family, their country and their religion. In the past, some have been detained and tortured by security forces. Release partners say: “Persecution of Christians in Egypt is increasing, along with Islamisation. Fundamentalists are taking advantage of Muslim-Christian conflicts.”
“Please pray for Christians in Egypt at this time of change,” says Release CEO Paul Robinson. “Pray for unity and a growing boldness in their witness.”
Other hotspots in the Islamic world include Nigeria and Pakistan. “Persecution in Pakistan is increasing by leaps and bounds,” says Release’s partner in the country. And in Nigeria, terror group Boko Haram have been targeting churches and killing and wounding hundreds, in their bid to destabilise and Islamise the country.
Release partners say the number and scale of attacks against Christians increased dramatically in 2012. Release is also concerned Christians could face increased persecution in Iran and Sudan, and is keeping a watchful eye on events in Syria.
Release partners also warn of increased persecution in North Korea – for years now regarded as one of the worst places in the world to be a Christian. The country’s new leader Kim Jong-Un is said to regard the underground church as a possible source of resistance to his untested leadership. “So he has sought to repress Christians even more severely than his father, Kim Jong-il,” adds Release partner Helping Hands Korea.
Another Release partner says North Koreans who are working as missionaries in China are being kidnapped by undercover security agents working for North Korea. “They are taken back, tortured and killed.”
The totalitarian state of Eritrea continues to be a major source of concern. The government has banned many Christian denominations and detained at least 1,500 Christians without trial. Many have been tortured and some have died in custody. Release believes Eritrea is pursuing a systematic policy to eradicate Evangelical and Pentecostal Christianity.
In India, seven states have passed ‘anti-conversion’ laws that are often used unjustly against Christians. Added to this, Release partner, the All-India Christian Council says: “Hindu activists are targeting house churches more than ever before as they realise these churches are growing.”
It says the attackers are becoming more organised and are using iron rods and sticks against Christians. “The persecution of Christians in India is increasing.”
“In 2013 many Christians around the world will face increased persecution. They ask those of us who enjoy freedom of faith to stand with them in prayer and offer our practical support,” says Paul Robinson of Release.
“I appeal to Christians throughout the UK not to forget these, our brothers and sisters on the frontlines of faith. Please do all you can to help us to help them.”
Through its international network of missions Release supports Christians imprisoned for their faith and their families in 30 nations. It supports church workers, pastors and their families, and provides training, Bibles, Christian literature and broadcasts. Release is a member of the UK organisations Global Connections and the Evangelical Alliance.