Christians are the most persecuted of all religious groups in the world, according to a new report.
It is estimated that one third of the world’s population suffers from religious persecution in some form, with Christians being the most persecuted, according to the interim report of the independent review into Foreign and Commonwealth Office support for persecuted Christians worldwide.
The Anglican Bishop of Truro, the Right Rev Philip Mounstephen, asked by Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt to lead the review, said he was “truly shocked by the severity, scale and scope of the problem”.
The interim report says: “Despite the fact that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is foundational to the UN Charter, which is binding on member states, and that ‘the denial of religious liberty is almost everywhere viewed as morally and legally invalid’, in today’s world religious freedom is far from being an existential reality.”
The full report is due to be presented to Mr Hunt by the end of June, and will make recommendations for changes in both policy and practice.
The scale of the problem was demonstrated by the fact that the report was out of date by the time it was published, most notably because of the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka.
The key research findings drawn together by the review include some from the Pew Research Centre which found that in 2016 Christians were targeted in 144 countries, a rise from 125 in 2015, and concluded: “Christians have been harassed in more countries than any other religious group and have suffered harassment in many of the heavily Muslim countries of the Middle East and North Africa.”
The charity Open Doors also revealed in its World Watch List that “approximately 245 million Christians living in the top 50 countries suffer high levels of persecution or worse”, 30 million up on the previous year.
According to Persecution Relief, 736 attacks were recorded in India in 2017, up from 348 in 2016. With reports in China showing an upsurge of persecution against Christians between 2014 and 2016, government authorities in Zheijiang Province targeted up to 2,000 churches, which were either partially or completely destroyed or had their crosses removed.