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EuropeMap reflects the 30 most recent Persecution Reports. Click HERE for the Map Legend.
The Russian annexation of the Crimea has not only captured world headlines over the past month, it has also led to dangerous consequences for many of the Christians living in the Crimean Peninsula. First among those are believers in the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. In March, reports emerged that Russian forces had ordered Catholic clergy to abandon their churches and flee to mainland Ukraine. The Church refused, and several priests were detained. Now the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, one of three branches of the Orthodox Church in the Ukraine, fears that under Russian rule the Russian Orthodox Church may reign supreme.
Street preacher John Craven has been awarded compensation after a UK court ruled his 2011 arrest was unlawful. Craven was arrested in 2011 while preaching in public after being confronted by two teenagers who questioned Craven about his view of homosexuality. Craven responded with a Biblical based position on the topic but said that "whilst God hates sin, He loves the sinner." The teenagers complained to police, saying they were offended by his speech, and Craven was subsequently arrested and held for 19 hours. It is becoming increasingly difficult for Christians to publicly espouse their beliefs in Western Europe, thanks to a prevailing anti-Christian culture.
The ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia over the Crimea peninsula has captured world headlines for the past several weeks. Now, a new religious dimension appears to be taking root, as pro-Russian forces have ordered Ukrainian Greek Catholic clergy to abandon their congregations in the Crimea and leave the area. The Church has decided to remain, regardless of the potential risks. On Saturday, it was reported that Father Mykola Kvych had been abducted by pro-Russian forces. His whereabouts remain unknown.
A Christian in Belarus was running a homeless shelter out of his home and had no trouble from the government until he opened a prayer room as part of the shelter. This prayer room was seen as an "unregistered organization" and the shelter was stripped of it's legal rights.
Pope Francis today took advantage of Mass service this morning to speak on the topic of Christian persecution, pointing out that more Christians are killed for their faith today than in the days of the early church. He also cautioned Christians to expect persecution as a part of the Christian life. Segments of the Pope's sermon from this morning are copied below.
Human rights observers are noting a perceptible increase in the profile of religious freedom issues in the United States and Europe. President Obama's speech at the National Prayer Breakfast on Feb. 6 included many direct references to the issue of international religious freedom. The European Parliament has also just released its first annual report on religious freedom violations around the globe, and United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, has publicly called for more attention to be paid to severe persecution in nations like Syria, Egypt, and Nigeria.
Persecution of Christians around the world has increased as their quality of life "has deteriorated." Among these countries are those that, "The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom also presented its annual report, in which 15 nations (Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan, Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam) are designated as 'countries of particular concern'."
Across Western Europe, ICC has observed a sharply decreased tolerance over the past decade for expressions of Christianity and orthodox Christian values. In July of last year an American street preacher was detained by London police for alleged "hate speech", though the preacher only quoted the Bible. Charges were later dropped against the preacher. In this latest cases, Bill Edwards, 73, was asked to stop preaching in front of a courthouse in Oxfordshire by police before being arrested after walking into a nearby police station.
Three Baptist leaders are likely to face administrative punishments after a police raid on a Council of Churches meeting for worship in Gomel in south-eastern Belarus. Police interrupted the pre-Christmas service, took names of all those present, interrogated some and seized a Bible, Baptists complained. The KGB secret police refuse to explain why the raid was necessary.
Hungary is being called out by a prominent U.S. lawmaker for it's latest attempt to regulate faith groups. A major church in Hungary was "stripped" of it's registered status by a new religion law and is now being investigated by the government after filing an application to register. The new religion law is viewed by many Christians in the nation as a step backwards towards the repression of the Communist era.
A Catholic priest in Belarus was suddenly released from prison to house arrest, though no one is certain why. Arrested under accusations of treason, which are denied by the priest and those who know him, he may face seven-fifteen years in prison if his case goes to trial.
In a welcome move forward towards raising the profile of Christian persecution, the British House of Commons will take up a debate centered around the subject today. For many years awareness, especially in the United States and Western Europe, of the extent of discrimination faced by Christians around the world has been highly limited. In recent years however severe violence towards Christians in flash-points such as Egypt, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Syria have started to attract global attention. According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, between 2006 and 2010 Christians faced harrasment in 139 countries around the globe. The German-based and secular International Society for Human Rights estimates that about 80% of all acts of religious intolerance in the world today are directed at Christians.
The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom has unanimously ruled against the Christian owners of a bed and breakfast who refused to allow unmarried couples to book a single room together. The couple, Peter and Hazelmary Bull, ran the B&B out of their own home and said that they applied the police to both heterosexual and homosexual couples. The Bull's were sued by a gay couple for discrimination based on sexual orientation and fined $5,800 in damages. The "lead decision" of the court was written by a justice who in the past has said that marriage "serves no useful purpose" and that, thanks to EU law, gay rights are almost "untouchable."
New legislation in the United Kingdom has Christians and civil liberty organizations up in arms over its potential to limit free speech. The new "anti-social behavior" law would include injunctions allowing authorities to "prevent nuisance and annoyance." The terms nuisance and annoyance are defined so broadly that Christians say street preaching, or even expressing a strong opinion, in public could be met with fines, arrest, and other legal consequences. Critics of the law also point out that those who actually commit crimes in public will not be deterred by the new legislation.
Slowly but surely, various governments around the world appear to be taking greater notice of the precarious situation for the many millions of Christians in areas of high persecution. Last week members of parliament in London held a discussion regarding Christian persecution, focusing especially on the Middle East. MP's (Ministers of Parliament) were told that Christians face persecution in 130 countries around the world, and that every hour a Christian faces torture or murder for their faith.
Redefining the natures and historical understanding if the Muslim conquest of Christian lands, and later attempts at portraying Islamic jihad as heroic have consequently defined Christians as worthy of blame and persecution. Raymond Ibrahim insightfully details this phenomenon of falsehood, and its disastrous impact on Christians.
Acts of Islamic terrorism targeting Christians are increasing dramatically across Africa. Sadly, the same gaps in infrastructure and policing capacity which allow Islamists to flourish also make it difficult to protect impacted Christian communities .
At a time of increased persecution around the globe, Pope Francis has called for opposition to "all forms of intolerance", including antisemitism and the "real persecution experienced by many Christians in various countries throughout the world." The comments came this morning in a meeting with a delegation from the Simon Wiesenthal Center and highlight the Catholic churches very serious concern for persecution. The Catholic Church estimates that as many as 100,000 Christians every year die as a result of their religious beliefs.
A new report produced by the UK office of the Catholic charity "Aid to the Church in Need" examining the persecution of Christians in 30 countries concludes that persecution is growing worse. Perhaps one of the most alarming developments is the possibility of the Christian population in the Middle East being completely wiped out after already having been drastically reduced over the past decade. The rise of Islamic radicalism and the persistence of authoritarian regimes in North Korea and Eritrea are a few of the primary causes behind the increase in persecution.
In the latest “democratization package” there was not any progress made towards the reopening of the Greek Orthodox Theological School of Halki. This school which had been a central training site for Eastern Orthodox Christianity has become a symbolic representation of the rights of Turkey’s Christian minority and a bargaining chip in the complicated dynamics of Turkey-Greece diplomatic relations. While there have been some occasional improvements in the status of minority rights for Turkey’s Christian community, there is still an absence of a truly robust religious freedom.
ICC has continued to report on the persecution of the Cristian majority population in CAR by well-armed and experienced Islamist fighters. French and EU security officials arrived in Bangui this week to assess the situation and develop plans for military intervention to counter the Islamist threat.
The European Parliament passed a resolution on Thursday, October 10th, condemning the violence and persecution against Christians in Syria, Pakistan, and Iran. The past few months have seen a dramatic increase in hostilities against the minority Christian community in these countries as extremist interpretations of Islam that promote violence to create an Islamic state have gained greater influence.
Coverage of the tragedy and hardship of Christian refugees fleeing Eritrea and Somalia are only now receiving media attention due to the tragic drowning of hundreds as a refugee ship sank off the coast of the island of Lampedusa, Italy. The story below offers an emotional narrative of the pain and loss wrought by the persecution of Christians upon a man searching for the brother he had hoped to bring to freedom.
Eritrea and Somalia are two of the nations most hostile to Christianity. The recent sinking of a migrant ship in Italian waters loaded with Eritrean and Somali refugees, many of whom were Christians, highlights their desperation. Just as the pursuit of religious freedom drove European settlers to what is now the United States, East African refugees regularly ply this harrowing route to escape religious persecution. The regular stream of refugees fleeing to the shores of Europe, and the mounting numbers of those whose journeys are cut short by murder, enslavement, or shipwreck, make for a tragedy that deserves more attention from the international community. Please pray for those making this perilous journey.
In yet another example of Christians facing discrimination and hatred for attempting to uphold their beliefs the owners of a Bed & Breakfast in the UK are closing up shop and moving after facing death threats and vandalism. Peter and Hazelmary Bull, who ran the business out of their home, maintained a policy of only allowing married couples to share a double bed. Their policy applied to both heterosexual and homosexual couples, but apparently after the passage of gay rights laws in 2007 the government tourism board removed their hotel from its approved list. In 2011 the Bull couple were successfully sued by a gay couple that won more than $5000 in damages.
This week the Archbishop of Genoa, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, took the opportunity to highlight the violence, discrimination and oppression that Christians are suffering from around the world, saying "God does not want this" and that the international community needs to open its eyes to the growing crisis.
In Germany a law passed under the Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler requires all German children to attend public school. Parents who wish to educate their children at home, even for religious reasons, face fines and the eventual loss of their children to the state. Last Thursday German authorities stormed the home of the Wunderlich family and took all four of their children into custody. The Christian family had not wanted their children educated by the secular school system and had traveled extensively abroad, seeking refuge from persecution, before returning to Germany for the father, Dirk, to find work. Authorities told Dirk and his wife, Petra, they would not be seeing their children for a long time.
Just a little over a hundred years ago, more than 80% of all of the world’s Christians lived in either Europe or North America. Today, that number has dropped below 40% and the steepest decline has been in Europe. It’s now believed that more Christians attend church on Sunday morning in China than on the entire European continent. The number of evangelical Christians, a movement that is relatively outspoken in espousing Christian doctrine, is estimated to comprise less than five percent of Western Europe’s population (in the U.S., evangelicals still make up about 40% of all Americans). According to the Center for Study on Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, the only major religion in Western Europe that is currently growing is Islam.
In yet another example of Christianity being slowly pushed from the public sphere the United Kingdom's version of the Girl Scouts, known as the Christian Girl Guides, has elected to drop the word "God" from their official oath. Some troops of the girl guides initially refused to drop the word after hundreds of complaints filed in, but recently at least one troop has given in and is adopting the new secular oath.
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ICC is constantly monitoring the state of Christian persecution in countries around the world and looking for ways that we can act as bridge between our supporters and the persecuted church. Beyond the projects you see above, we are working in many other areas to provide practical assistance to our brothers and sisters in Christ. View our other projects page to understand more of our work and keep up to date on our current projects.