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Christian persecution on the increase in Sahel region, charity reports

14 January 2022

Alamy

Joy Bishara, a survivor of kidnapping by Boko Haram, speaks at a news conference in Washington organised by International Christian Concern, in November

Joy Bishara, a survivor of kidnapping by Boko Haram, speaks at a news conference in Washington organised by International Christian Concern, in ...

CHRISTIANS in the Sahel region of Africa are facing growing persecution for their faith — one of several regions where attacks on Christians are on the rise, a charity has warned in its latest report.

The charity, Release International, which supports Christians who are targeted for their faith, has in its report, Persecution Trends 2022, identified the Sahel region, which includes Nigeria and Burkina Faso, as an area where it is increasingly unsafe to be a Christian.

Violence against Christians is on the rise, as Islamist extremists gain ground, it states. In Nigeria, Boko Haram, Islamic State fighters, and attacks by Fulani militia continued throughout 2021.

“Fulani militants destroyed more than 50 villages and displaced nearly 5000 Christians,” said a Release International partner, whose name has not been released to protect their identity.

The report also identifies Afghanistan, now under Taliban control, as a country where Christians are under threat. Christians face discrimination and restricted access to aid, as a humanitarian crisis grips the country.

North Korea, one of the most hostile countries to Christianity in the world, is also in the grip of severe food shortages. Identification as a Christian in North Korea can result in being sent to a labour camp, or execution, the charity says.

But the Covid pandemic has helped the underground Church, it suggests. A Release International partner, Dr Eric Foley, said that, during the pandemic, requests for Bibles increased dramatically, as authorities were forced to reduce their house-to-house searches to avoid infection.

India has also been identified as a country of “rising concern”, because of crackdowns on religious freedoms and attacks by Hindu nationalists. About one third of states have passed laws limiting or prohibiting religious conversion (News, 31 December).

Over Christmas, the police advised church leaders in Karnataka State not to hold Christmas services, as they were unable to guarantee the protection of Christians from Hindu militants.

The president of the Global Council of Indian Christians, Sajan K. George, said that there had been 40 attacks on Christians in the state last year. “Karnataka stands third in the number of attacks on Christians. The minuscule Christian community routinely faces vandalism, false accusations, and arrests,” he said.

“In many nations, we see a rising tide of intolerance towards Christians, accompanied by a rise in violence,” the chief executive of Release International, Paul Robinson, said.

“Islamist militants are becoming more aggressive in Africa, as they attempt to drive Christians from the land. Now, the violent intolerance of these insurgents is being mirrored in India, where we see right-wing religious nationalists attempting to eliminate the Christian presence in parts of the country.

“The intolerance and persecution is set to get worse with growing food and climate insecurity.”

The annual World Wide Watch List, which ranks the top 50 countries most dangerous for Christians, will be published this month.

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