“The words of Jesus to his disciples are there to remind us what His followers should expect: ‘If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you,’” stated Cardinal Joseph Coutts of Karachi in the report’s introduction.
“We unite our sufferings with those who suffer more than us and find inspiration in the words of the Apostle Paul: ‘We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body,’” the archbishop said.
While the Islamic State genocide against Christians in Iraq and Syria, beginning in 2014, drew international condemnation in recent years, the killings, beatings, and harassment of Christians in India, Sri Lanka, and Burma – along with ongoing persecution of Christians in China and North Korea – have created a regional problem that is now the worst in the world, ACN has warned.
After Sri Lanka’s civil war ended ten years ago, minority Christians and Muslims have suffered attacks by Sinhalese Buddhist nationalists, but the scope of the violence changed dramatically on Easter Sunday.
A series of coordinated bombings, for which the Islamic State claimed responsibility, targeted churches and hotels during the Paschal Triduum, and killed 258 people while injuring around 500.
In the wake of the attacks, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo alleged that the government could have done more to prevent the bombings and told ACN that “five training camps for jihadists have been found.”
“The attack signaled that, while the Islamists had switched strategy away from territorial gain to guerrilla warfare, attacking Christians was still a primary objective,” ACN reported of the Sri Lanka bombings.
In India, Christian leaders have been warning of a rise in Hindu nationalism that threatens to marginalize minority religions through violence and intimidation.
There were reported attacks against Christians in 24 of the 29 states in India between July 2017 and July 2019, with one estimate counting over 440 anti-Christian incidents in 2017, more than 470 in 2018, and 117 attacks in the first quarter of 2019.
Some of the attacks were horrific, including the gang-rape of five female workers at a Christian NGO in the northeastern state of Jharkhand.
In one case in September 2018, an elderly Christian woman was beaten in Veppur village on the date of a Hindu festival for walking on the road and thus defiling it; rocks were thrown at Christians who tried to help her.
In another case in February, a church in Karkeli village was attacked by a mob, and as CNA reported in September, a Jesuit-run mission school in Jharkhand was attacked by a violent mob of Hindu extremists where students and staff were beaten, in some cases severely.
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Yet attacks like these continue with “impunity” because of an apparent reluctance by the government to investigate and prosecute, ACN says.
In the spring of 2019, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party won a second term in office, sparking concerns by Christian leaders of a worsening persecution.
In East Asia, authoritarian governments in China and North Korea continue to inflict horrific abuses on Christians.
North Korea has long been recognized as “the worst place in the world to be a Christian,” ACN says, with “upwards of 70,000 Christians” detained in harsh labor camps with reports of “extra-judicial killings, forced labor, torture, persecution, starvation, rape, forced abortion and sexual violence.”
China reportedly arrested underground Catholic Bishop Peter Shao Zhumin of Wenzhou and detained him for seven months just after an agreement had been reached with the Vatican on the selection of bishops. The government also banned the online sale of Bibles in April 2018 in order to promote “a new version compatible with Sinicization and socialism.”
In the Philippines, bombings during Sunday Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Jolo killed 20 people and injured more than 100 in January.