China, North Korea, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Malaysia are among the nations where Christians are being targetted
Indian Christians pray behind a police barricade outside Sacred Heart Cathedral, closed to the general public due to the Covid-19 pandemic, during Christmas celebrations in New Delhi on Dec. 25, 2021. (Photo: AFP)
The persecution of Christians in seven Asian nations including China is predicted to increase in 2023 due to political pressure and radical religious views, says the latest report from UK-based Christian rights group, Release International (RI).
The RI report titled “Persecution Trends 2023” released on Dec. 28, 2022, highlights China, North Korea, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Malaysia, and Iran in the list of nations where Christians face persecution, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported on Jan. 4.
The group’s report highlighted the extensive control placed by Chinese President Xi Jinping on Christians in the nation labeling them as “unpatriotic” citizens through official messages.
“The government under Xi Jinping wants to control everything, and currently Christianity is not fully under its control [as it sees it],” the report said, quoting an unnamed source.
“Christianity is being pictured as unacceptable to an atheistic, communist country, rather than an acceptable but minority belief,” the report read.
The report highlighted the numerous reports of Christian leaders and followers arrested or summoned for questioning related to their activities in China.
The increasing number of Christians facing charges related to cults and illegal financial and religious activity was also pointed out as an indicator of Christian persecution in the Communist-ruled nation.
Beijing has sent out clear and strong messages to youth, teachers, and parents that “religion will harm their education” demanding them to report anyone engaging in religious activities to the authorities, the report read.
The report also pointed out instances of companies withdrawing job offers where applicants expressed “Christian beliefs.”
The situation of Christians in neighboring North Korea, a close ally of China was also highlighted in the report as worsening.
“North Korea is perhaps the most severe persecutor of Christians in the world today,” stated Andrew Boyd, Public Affairs Officer of Release International, RFA reported.
The regime under Kim Jong-un views Christianity as a tool used by Western powers to colonize other countries and “continues to educate the public on the ‘dangers’ of the clergy, missionaries, and Bibles,” the report read.
The report also highlighted the crackdown Beijing has begun on North Korean Christian defectors in China citing Covid-19.
The Chinese authorities have indicated their intent to deport the defectors to North Korea where they would probably be interrogated on their church attendance, missionary interaction, and receiving Bibles.
Citing the Hindu extremist groups’ pressure on Christians in India which is “increasingly emboldened by the nation’s right-wing Hindu Government” the report indicated continuous attacks on Christians in the country
The report claimed that the attacks on Christian missionaries from Hindu nationalist groups have increased since the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 2014.
The National Solidarity Forum and Evangelical Fellowship of India noted around 500 reported attacks on Christians in 2021, with about 200 recorded in the first five months of 2022, the report cited.
The country has seen the implementation of various anti-conversion laws which the ruling BJP party cites as a move to curb forced conversion.
Ten states — Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Uttarakhand, and Uttar Pradesh— have enacted their anti-conversion laws, which have been challenged in courts in many places.
However, Christians and other minority groups have cried foul over the law that is often misused against Christian groups with politically motivated ill will.
In March 2021, Hindu activists forced their way into a Protestant prayer service inside Satprakashan Sanchar Kendra, a Catholic media center owned and managed by the Society of Divine Word in Madhya Pradesh, India.
The Hindu activists complained that the Christians were involved in mass religious conversion in violation of the law implemented in the state in January 2021 that criminalizes religious conversion through allurement, force, coercion, and marriage.
Based on the complaint, 11 Christians were arrested and charged under the stringent anti-conversion law enacted in the state.
In a similar incident, Sister Bhagya, a nun serving as a principal at a school in Madhya Pradesh was arrested when a 45-year-old Hindu woman Ruby Singh, a former teacher in the school, complained to police on Feb. 22, 2021, that the nun used force to convert her.
In Pakistan, Christians face “frequent attacks and threats, including blasphemy charges, targeted killings, mob violence, forced conversions and destruction of worship places and graves,” the report read.
“Many Afghan Christians have fled the country or are living temporarily in neighboring countries such as Pakistan or Iran, while those who remain have gone into hiding,” the report read.
Muslim-majority nations such as Malaysia and Iran were also cited as locations where Christians face restrictions and hardships under stringent laws that prohibit the practice of their faith.
“[Christian] Persecution has been on the increase in recent years. 2023 looks set to continue that trend,” stated Paul Robinson, CEO of Release International.
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