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As Western Easter Approaches, Christian Persecution Is on the Rise

The persecution of Christians should be a focus of governments all across the world that have commitments to human rights and religious freedom. 

For more coverage of persecution as a growing phenomenon and actions to safeguard religious freedom, see here.

“As Easter Approaches, Christian Persecution Is on the Rise | Opinion,” by Anthony D. Andreassi, Newsweek, March 25, 2024:

For Catholics the world over, as in other Christian traditions, Lent is a time to reflect on the strength of our faith, repent our transgressions, and prepare ourselves for Easter and the salvation promised by Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection.

For most Christians in the United States and the developed world, Lent tests the sincerity of our devotion with the temporal temptations of modern life. But in much of the global south, one’s faith can be subject to far more severe trials. Millions of Catholics risk their lives to worship God, and the simple act of attending Mass can be life threatening.

According to a 2023 report published by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), a Catholic charity dedicated to sustaining the faith in places where it is oppressed, the persecution of Christians is on the rise globally. “Almost 340 million Christians around the world—or 1 out of every 8,” the report declares, “live in a country where they suffer some form of persecution, such as arbitrary arrest, violence, a full range of human rights violations and even murder.”

Nowhere is that disturbing reality more in evidence than in Nigeria, a country where the population is approximately half Christian and half Muslim, and where violent attacks on Christians have escalated since 2009, when Boko Haram began its brutal campaign of kidnapping and killing Christians.

If the current situation remains unchanged, before Holy Week ends this Easter, we will in all likelihood receive new reports of Catholics murdered in Nigeria, as was the case last Christmas when as many as 200 Catholics were slaughtered and hundreds more injured in attacks in more than 20 Nigerian villages.

Twenty Catholic missionaries were murdered in 2023, according to Fides, the news agency of the Pontifical Mission Societies. Of the nine missionaries killed in African countries, Nigeria had the highest total—four more souls added to the thousands of Nigerian Catholics killed last year for practicing their faith. Churches and seminaries are regularly attacked by criminal gangs and Islamic jihadists. Nearly every week last year, a Catholic priest was kidnapped, and many remain missing. In 2022, the ACN had already established that anti-Christian violence “In Nigeria and other countries…clearly passes the threshold of genocide.”

What can be done to confront the spread of religious persecution in Nigeria and elsewhere? We can start by raising awareness of the crisis, by acknowledging its existence and confronting its perpetrators. America was founded on the conviction that all people are entitled to religious freedom. It’s one of our founding principles, and the government of the United States has a moral and now, more recently, a legal responsibility to support that value wherever it is assailed….

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