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Persecution of Christians worldwide is reaching an unprecedented scale - Open Doors report

Published: 30.01.2020

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Open Doors, international organization which examines the situation of Christians and the intensity of their persecution, has issued its annual report. It concluded that the bloody persecution of Christians is intensifying globally. 260 million were affected in 2019.

The World Watch List - a worldwide list of 50 countries in which Christians experience the most brutal forms of persecution, updated annually, confirms once again the unprecedented hostility and violence against the followers of Christ. A total of 260 million Christians worldwide were exposed to some form of harassment, aggression or hostility because of their faith in 2019. This is 15 million more than in the previous year. As per the Open Doors estimates, another 50 million are being persecuted for religious reasons in more than 20 other countries in the world not covered by the report.

Repression takes various forms, from attacks on churches (particularly during Christian holidays), to physical violence against believers or actions restricting their freedom of practising their religion and self-expression. The World Watch List is based on an analysis of religious persecution, observed in several spheres of life, ranging from private life through national legislation to physical violence.

Since 2002, North Korea has taken the lead in the ranking, where Christians are vulnerable to the most severe repression, including arrests and murder. Sri Lanka ranks 30th this year due to last year's Easter terrorist attacks, with a death toll of over 250. In those countries where Christians live their lives under threat because of their faith, schools, hospitals, cemeteries and monasteries are also under attack. The increase in repression is another cause for concern. The intensity of persecution has been classified as “extreme” or “very high” in as many as 45 out of 50 countries.

According to the Open Doors report, 2983 Christians died for their faith in 2019, which is a lower number than in previous years. Nonetheless, estimates imply a surge of attacks on churches, rising fivefold to 9488 in 2019, from 1847 in 2018. Digital surveillance online (for instance in China, India) was also determined to be one of the new forms of harassment or hostile practices, undertaken in order to more accurately detect and identify adherents to Christianity and effectively deter religious practices.

The list does not include European countries. However, attacks on Christian places of worship and symbols are also present and increasingly common in Italy, UK, Spain, Ireland, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, France, Germany and even Poland. According to the Gatestone Institute, some 3000 Christian churches, cemeteries and monuments were devastated, looted or destroyed in Europe in 2019. Violence against Christians, prevalent in France, also occurs in other European countries. Data from the French Ministry of the Interior show that attacks on Christians have more than doubled in the past few years and accounted for 90% of the religious violence. According to government data from February 2019, 11 churches were burnt down and more than 800 were profaned in 2018.

“The persecution of Christians has become stronger than ever and is impacting more and more believers around the world. This phenomenon may appear surprising, due to overall blackout of this topic in mainstream media. The world has heard about the burning of Notre Dame Cathedral, but has not heard of hundreds of others. Regretfully, current manifestations of hostility towards Christians in European countries, be it due to the spreading of radical Islam or anti-Christian secularism, are devastating not only towards Christianity, but at the same time are an attack on Europe's historical and cultural heritage,” comments Karina Walinowicz, Director of the Ordo Iuris Centre for Religious Freedom.

Poland has also seen disturbing acts of aggression against Christians. Every year, several dozen cases from all over Poland are reported in reports submitted by the Ordo Iuris Centre for Religious Freedom. Defending constitutionally guaranteed religious freedom and cultivating historical and cultural heritage rooted in Christianity are at the same time guarantees of public safety and order.

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