Report shows Christian persecution on the rise in Afghanistan, India and Nigeria
Source: International release
A major US commission is calling for Afghanistan, India and Nigeria to be designated countries of particular concern because of the growing threat to religious freedom in those countries. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has just released its 2022 Annual Report (Monday, April 25). Its findings are in line with the recent Persecution Trends report published by UK-based Release International, which supports persecuted Christians around the world.
The bipartisan USCIRF, which advises the President of the United States and the US State Department, is calling for 15 nations to be included in the US list of countries of particular concern due to rising persecution and religious intolerance.
The most notable additions are Nigeria, India and Afghanistan.
Other countries on the list of the world’s worst religious freedom violators are: China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Burma, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, Syria and Vietnam.
“We welcome this report,” said Paul Robinson, CEO of Release International. “Release International has long reported on widespread violence against Christians in Nigeria, as well as India and Afghanistan. These other countries have also earned their place on the list.
“Last year, the United States designated Russia as a country of political concern. USCIRF confirms this decision. With all eyes on Russia’s assault on Ukraine, we will be watching closely how which Russia treats Christians of faiths other than Russian Orthodoxy.”
USCIRF has long criticized the Taliban for their extremist policies. Its 2022 report warns:
“Afghans who do not adhere to the Taliban’s harsh and strict interpretation of Sunni Islam and followers of other faiths or beliefs are at grave risk.”
The 2022 Annual Report states: “With the return to power of the Taliban, religious freedom conditions in Afghanistan and the general human rights situation deteriorated significantly in 2021.
“Religious minorities have been harassed, detained and even killed because of their faith or beliefs.” He continues: “Christians convert [and other minorities] practiced their faith underground for fear of reprisals and threats from the Taliban.
“They are unable to openly express their beliefs or beliefs as they face dire consequences, including death, if discovered.
“Afghans who have converted to Christianity from Islam in the past 20 years are considered ‘apostates’, a crime punishable by death. Converts, who have previously been ostracized and threatened with crimes by family and village members, are at heightened risk as a result of the Taliban takeover.
“USCIRF has received reports that the Taliban have been going door to door looking for Christian converts. Christians received threatening phone calls and a house church network leader received a threatening letter in August from Taliban militants. Some Christians turned off their phones and moved to undisclosed locations.
The report adds, “The crisis in Afghanistan should serve as a collective call to action to ensure the protection of the world’s most vulnerable religious communities.
“Afghanistan has long been a country of concern to Release International, but the threat of persecution to Christians and others has increased dramatically since the Taliban took over,” Release International CEO Paul Robinson said.
“The situations in Afghanistan, the Sahel and now in Ukraine, should indeed be a wake-up call for the world – and especially for the church.”
According to the latest USCIRF report, religious persecution in India has worsened significantly. USCIRF has noted that the BJP government’s Hindu nationalist agenda is impacting Christians and Dalits – an increasing number of whom have converted to Christianity – as well as other religious minorities.
The report highlighted the growing number of states passing anti-conversion laws. And warned that these encourage a culture of impunity and violence against Christians and others.
USCIRF observed: “The government has continued to systematize its ideological vision of a Hindu state at both national and state level. Government action, including the continued enforcement of anti-conversion laws against non-Hindus, has created a culture of impunity for nationwide campaigns of threats and violence by mobs and vigilante groups.
The report notes that about a third of India’s 28 states now limit or prohibit religious conversion.
USCIRF warned: “National, state and local governments have demonized and attacked Hindu conversion to Christianity.”
Examples of government persecution included a 2021 state order in Karnataka to carry out a “survey of churches and priests in the state which authorized police to carry out door-to-door inspection to find Hindus who are converted to Christianity. And in Uttar Pradesh, one of the worst states guilty of religious persecution, USCIRF “received documented reports of at least 50 incidents between June and October 2021 targeting the Christian community.”
Across India, the growing culture of religious intolerance has led to “numerous attacks…on religious minorities, especially Muslims and Christians, and their neighborhoods, businesses, homes and places of worship.
“Many of these incidents were violent, unprovoked and/or encouraged or instigated by government officials,” USCIRF noted.
Another example of state collusion with persecution is that of Father Stan Swamy, described as “an 84-year-old Jesuit priest and lifelong advocate for the human rights of Adivasis, Dalits and other marginalized communities”.
“He was arrested on questionable charges in October 2020 and never stood trial. He died in custody in July 2021 despite repeated concerns about his health.
Nigeria has long been a country of concern for UK-based Release International, which along with others has documented a growing number of attacks on predominantly Christian villages in northern and central states by militants and Islamist bandits.
“Christian villagers are being targeted and driven from their homes, creating widespread exodus and growing numbers of displaced people,” Release International CEO Paul Robinson said.
“There is an anti-Christian dimension to much of this violence, which is fueling a growing anarchy that the government of Nigeria is failing to control.”
The USCIRF report criticizes the state, as well as militant Islamist groups, for widespread violations of religious freedom. He warns:
“Despite Nigeria’s constitution protecting religious freedom…citizens have been accused and convicted of blasphemy, violence and attacks during religious ceremonies.”
Among the many attacks on Christians during the reporting period in 2021, USCIRF noted:
-In May, armed actors set fire to a church in an attack in Kaduna state that left eight people dead.
-In July, armed actors reportedly burned down four churches during attacks on communities in Kaduna.
– In September, a violent mob in Kano State attacked and killed a local reverend in retaliation for his alleged involvement in converting a Muslim family member to Christianity.
-In October, two worshipers were killed in Kaduna State in an attack on a church during morning prayers.
-In November, churches in Zamfara state received threatening messages from local armed actors asking them to close or risk fierce attacks.
USCIRF continues: “Across the country, at least 13 religious leaders were kidnapped for ransom in 2021. While most kidnapped religious leaders were released, some died during these kidnappings, including a pastor in Akoko. Ondo, a priest and imam in Katsina and an imam in Ogun The kidnappers also targeted two religious schools, abducting hundreds of school children.
The influential USCIRF report also criticizes the government of Nigeria and the United States.
He condemns the Nigerian government for not responding sufficiently to violence against religious leaders and congregations.
And he blames the US government for removing Nigeria from its list of countries of particular concern, despite continued and growing persecution.
“Release International supports this call for the United States and others to list Nigeria as a country of particular concern,” CEO Paul Robinson said. “Religious persecution continues to escalate, whether at the hands of Islamists, bandits or the indifferent – or even worse, colluding politicians. Nigeria – and the world – can no longer ignore and ignore the increasing violence against Christians”.
The British company Release International is active in around thirty countries. It works through partners to support in prayer, pastoral care and practice the families of Christian martyrs, prisoners of the faith and their families, as well as Christians suffering from oppression and violence, and Christians forced to escape.
Keywords: Release International, India, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Paul Robinson
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