A study commissioned by the UK's Foreign Secretary has said Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world. The new reports busts a few myths surrounding religious persecution around the world and highlights the disturbing extent of genocide-level persecution Christians face, especially in the Middle East.
"The inconvenient truth is that the overwhelming majority (80%) of persecuted religious believers are Christians," says the report, which was commissioned by British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
The report says that the Christian population in the Middle East is fast dwindling. The religious group used to represent 20 percent of the population in the Middle East and North Africa a century ago but their numbers have fallen to less than 4 percent, or roughly 15 million people now.
The places where Christians are facing severe threat are Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Syria, the report says. In most of these countries the state itself engages in discriminatory treatment of Christians while non-state actors wield various weapons of persecution.
Christian extermination rampant in Middle East
"In countries such as Iran, Algeria and Qatar, the state is the main actor, where as in Syria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Libya and Egypt both state and non-state actors, especially religious extremist groups, are implicated," the report says.
Apart from strife-torn places like Syria, Iraq, Egypt and north-east Nigeria, even in countries like Philippines the extremist groups aim to eradicate Christians and other minorities through violent means, it says.
Surprisingly, even a modern state like Turkey engages in open persecution of Christians. "The governing AK party in Turkey depicts Christians as a 'threat to the stability of the nation'. Turkish Christian citizens have often been stereotyped as not real Turks but as western collaborators," says the report.
Brazen attacks on the clergy and the churches are rampant in Egypt. Extremist groups killed a total of 99 Egyptian Christians in 2017 alone, the report says. Palestine is another region where the displacement of Christians has been happening at an alarming pace. The population of Christians in Palestine dropped from 15 percent to 2 percent currently.
'Political correctness' leads to silence?
The report underscores its argument that the Christian persecution in parts of the world has assumed genocide proportions. "The level and nature of persecution is arguably coming close to meeting the international definition of genocide, according to that adopted by the UN."
The interim report of the commission, based on a review by the bishop of Truro, the Rt Rev Philip Mounstephen, was published on Thursday, the Guardian reported. Hunt told the daily the 'atmosphere of political correctness' has led to Christian persecution getting less attention.
"I think we have shied away from talking about Christian persecution because we are a Christian country and we have a colonial past, so sometimes there's a nervousness there ... But we have to recognise – and that's what the bishop's report points out very starkly – that Christians are the most persecuted religious group," Hunt said.
"We've all been asleep on the watch when it comes to the persecution of Christians."