Discrimination, arrests, kidnapping and killing of Christians around the world have led National Catholic Reporter correspondent John Allen to suggest the next pope will be pressed to make defence of religious freedom his number one job.
Allen offers these statistics on anti-Christian discrimination:
+ According to the Germany-based International Society for Human Rights, 80 per cent of all acts of religious discrimination in the world today are directed at Christians.
+ According to the Pew Forum in the United States, Christians face either de jure or de facto discrimination in 139 nations, roughly two-thirds of all countries on earth.
+ The Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in the US estimates that an average of 100,000 Christians have been killed for the faith each year over the last decade, which works out to 11 new martyrs every hour.
Allen reports several events since Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation on February 11.
On February 17, a 55-year-old Catholic priest, Father Evarist Mushi, was shot to death in Tanzania, in front of Zanzibar’s Catholic cathedral. An Islamic group claimed responsibility, saying: “We thank our young men, trained in Somalia, for killing an infidel. Many more will die. We will burn homes and churches. We have not finished: At Easter, be prepared for disaster.”
On February 18, Italian missionaries in Syria launched an emergency fundraising appeal called “Ransom a Christian” to help fund the release of Christians kidnapped by Islamist-inspired rebels.
The going price for a kidnapped Catholic priest was given as around $US200,000.
On February 21, Saudi Arabia’s religious police swooped on a private gathering of at least 53 Ethiopian Christians, shutting down their private prayer and arresting foreign workers for practising their faith.
Also on February 21, police in India arrested four Protestant pastors while they were having dinner, after Hindu extremists accused them of forceful conversion.
News category: World.