Persecution of Christians
Christians living in the UK are often not aware of the persecution of Christians around the world. Most persecution happens in Muslim countries where Islam affects everything from the government to families and everything in-between. For Christians, the issue is about who they serve, yet they are required to submit to their government so long as it does not impose regulations which are not permitted by God. Islam and other religions claim that their religion is right, but Christians are different in that they believe in there being only one God who can only be known through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ – He is the only way to God. Even though God is a jealous God, in that He will not condone the worship of any other god, but Him, He does not condone violence, only seeks to love people. So, there is conflict as to who is right. Whereas genuine Christians seek to bring all peoples into the Kingdom of God, they do not need violence or any other form of aggression to bring others to faith. That is because it is God, through the Holy Spirit, who does the converting – we are called to share the Good News of the Kingdom of God and persuade in a loving way and in prayer, for others to repent, believe and accept Jesus as their Saviour and Lord (over every aspect of their lifes). Where the persecution begins is when there is a fear of Christians undermining their religious structures of control and power, and the only way they can react is through discrimination, harassment and violence, even death. Instead of peaceably trying to persuade others of the merits of their belief system, they turn to persecution, which in reality they are saying that their religion is weak and do not believe their deities have any power, so they have to do it for them.
In the UK, there is a growing, but subtle, discrimination against Christians practicing their faith. This shows itself in
- the disciplining of a nurse who simply asked a patient if she would like her to pray for the patient
- a registrar sacked for not willing to marry same-sex couples
- midwives sacked for not willing to carry out abortions
- the calling of some UK Government ministers and Judges for people to sign up to a declaration of British values if someone wishes to hold public office – these values include a belief in LGBT rights and not to preach from the King James Version
- the Home Office barring Protestant and Orthodox bishops from entering the UK, yet allowing Muslim clerics who preach violence to enter
- in the media, one tends to only get negative characters, especially in the ‘soaps’, and in the newspapers and television, where they cannot distinguish between Bible-believing Christians and the liberal Christians who disregard the Scriptures and follow the morals of society.
There is a confrontation going on within the Government with the Prime Minister stating the important of Christianity in society and some of her ministers wish to get rid of any Christian influence.
Christians need to be aware of the subtle changes like teaching about same-sex relationships in primary schools, clamping down on open-air preaching if it criticises gays or muslims, despite the UK signing up to International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Yet on the other hand, we need to be aware that is a spiritual battle, with satan trying to get rid of christians. We must be prepared to stand up and declare that we are servants of Jesus and we will not be silent in proclaiming the Gospel and challenging Government and others.
One area that is being undermined is the right to conscientious objection to not taking part in medical procedures which involve the ending of life. Even though this right is enshrined in abortion legislation, a judge recently said it did not apply to midwives. So, there is a petition asking the Government to put this right into a proper footing so that it is quite clear that all medical staff have a right to conscientious objection.
Please sign the attached petition – http://www.freeconscience.org.uk/#problem-solution-section!loading
Below is the international rights that relate to religion to which all countries have signed at least the first one, if not the second. There are very few countries where it is completely followed. Even in the USA, the so called bastion of freedom, it is difficult to be heard as a pro-lifer or an opponent to the death penalty. Also below is an article on the state of persecution around the world todayand the difficulties Christian asylum seekers have in entering the UK.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
1. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.
2. No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.
3. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.
4. The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.
1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.
2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.
3. The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:
(a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others;
(b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.
‘Worst Year Yet’: The Top 50 Countries Where It’s Hardest to Be a Christian
January 11, 2017 9:00 AM
For the third year in a row, the modern persecution of Christians worldwide has hit another record high.But the primary cause, Islamic extremism, now has a rival: ethnic nationalism.
Thus, Asia increasingly merits concern alongside the Middle East, according to the 2017 World Watch List (WWL) released today by Open Doors.
This being the list’s 25th anniversary, Open Doors also released an analysis of persecution trends over the past quarter-century.
The annual list examines the pressures faced by Christians in five spheres of life (private, family, community, national, and church), plus levels of religiously motivated violence, in order to rank the top 50 countries where “Christians face the most persecution.” [Full list below.]
CT’s coverage of recent WWL rankings noted how North Korea was getting competition, as well as how the annual list aims for effective anger and shows persecuted believers that they are not forgotten.
In 25 years of “chronicling and ranking” the political and societal restrictions on religious freedom experienced by Christians worldwide, Open Doors researchers identified 2016 as the “worst year yet.”
“Persecution rose globally again for the third year in a row, indicating how volatile the situation has become,” stated Open Doors. “Countries in South and Southeast Asia rapidly rose to unprecedented levels and now rank among such violent areas as the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa.”
The findings and trends noted by Open Doors are stark:
- Approximately 215 million Christians experience high, very high, or extreme persecution.
- North Korea remains the most dangerous place to be a Christian (for 14 straight years).
- Islamic extremism remains the global dominant driver of persecution, responsible for initiating oppression and conflict in 35 out of the 50 countries on the 2017 list.
- Ethnic nationalism is fast becoming a major driver of persecution. “While this took an anti-establishment form in the West, in Asia it took an anti-minorities form, fueled by dramatic religious nationalism and government insecurity. It is common—and easy—for tottering governments to gain quick support by scapegoating Christians.”
- The total number of persecution incidents in the top 50 most dangerous countries increased, revealing the persecution of Christians worldwide as a rising trend.
- The most violent: Pakistan, which rose to No. 4 on the list for a level of violence “exceeding even northern Nigeria.”
- The killings of Christians in Nigeria saw an increase of more than 62 percent.
- The killings of Christians were more geographically dispersed than in most time periods studied. “Hitting closer to home, 23 Christian leaders in Mexico and four in Colombia were killed specifically for their faith,” said Open Doors of the “rare” event.
- The worst increase: Mali, which moved up the most places on the list from No. 44 to No. 32.
- Asia is a new center of concern, with persecution rising sharply in Bangladesh, Laos, and Bhutan, and Sri Lanka joining the list for the first time.
Open Doors noted that India rose to its highest rank ever, No. 15, amid the continued rise of Hindu nationalism. “An average of 40 incidents were reported per month, including pastors beaten, churches burned and Christians harassed,” stated Open Doors. “Of the 64 million Christians in India, approximately 39 million experience direct persecution.”
In Central Asia, persecution spread due to both Islamic extremism and government attempts to restrict it. “In many countries, governmental raids of suspected Christian households increased, certain Christian books have been banned,” stated Open Doors, “and the membership requirement to remain a legal church doubled, resulting in many churches to be deemed illegal overnight.”
The top 10 nations where it is most dangerous and difficult to practice the Christian faith are:
Yemen was the only new country in the top 10, replacing Libya.
Over the past 25 years, only three countries have topped the list: North Korea (2002 – 2017), Saudi Arabia (1993 – 1995; 1998 – 2001), and Somalia (1996 – 1997).
The top 10 nations over the 25-year span are:
Six countries appear on both lists—a sign of the concerning stability of persecution, noted Open Doors.
The WWL data is compiled from reports spanning November 1, 2015, to October 31, 2016. The annual list is audited by the International Institute for Religious Freedom.
Open Doors defines persecution as “any hostility experienced as a result of identification with Christ.” “Christians remain one of the most persecuted religious groups in the world,” it stated. “Christians throughout the world continue to risk imprisonment, loss of home and assets, torture, beheadings, rape and even death as a result of their faith.”
“The Open Doors World Watch List is the most accurate, thorough and intensive research available on the persecution of Christians,” said David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors USA. “It calculates not only deaths reported in the news, but also persecution at a grassroots level, where family-to-family persecution is tracked. The 25-year research shows where the most unstable areas for Christians have historically been and, in many countries, remain.”
Persecution in the UK
“The Church has a duty to protect the free practice of all faiths in this country.”
Refugees Seeking U.K. Asylum May Be Thwarted By Religious Bias
Roughly 77 percent of the world’s population lives under conditions of strict religious restrictions and hostilities, according to Pew Forum. But as waves of refugees leave their home countries in search of freedom, those seeking asylum in the U.K. on religious grounds may face daunting challenges riddled with religious bias.
Some Home Office officials conducting interviews for asylum on grounds of religious persecution have taken to quizzing applicants on “Bible trivia,” hiring unqualified interpreters and allowing their own religious biases to shade decisions, according to a new report by a nonpartisan group of U.K. parliamentarians.
The country received 41,563 asylum applications for the year ended in March, largely from nationals of Iran, Pakistan and Iraq, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The Home Office doesn’t tally the number of applications that specifically cite religious persecution.
The report, “Fleeing Persecution: Asylum Claims in the UK on Religious Freedom Grounds,” was published Tuesday by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief, a nonpartisan group of members U.K. Parliament members, along with the Asylum Advocacy Group, a coalition of mostly religious organizations.
Based on evidence from the U.N. and various advocacy and religious groups, the report concludes that U.K. officials conducting asylum interviews lack essential religious literacy needed to understand the complexity of religious-based applications.
The findings “signal a lack of understanding and misperceptions of religion and belief among decision-makers working within the U.K. asylum system,” the report says.
Asylum seekers applying for refugee status in the U.K. face steps that include an interview with a Home Office representative. Caseworkers assess the credibility of the applicant’s claim, which can be compromised if the applicant delivers inaccurate or inconsistent information.
But the line between truth and falsehood often gets blurred by the complexity of religious issues. Not all Christians or Christian converts can recite the Ten Commandments or the Lord’s Prayer, for instance. But according to the report, some applicants have been asked to do so during interviews.
The report also found that interviewers asked asylum seekers to answer questions about the biblical story of Adam and Eve, name the apostles, give the meaning of Lent, and say whether Easter is celebrated on the same date each year.
“One question they asked me was very strange — what color was the cover of the Bible,” Mohammed, an Iranian Christian convert whose initial application for asylum was rejected, told the BBC. “I knew there were different colors. The one I had was red.”
Issues of religious literacy arise in cases of asylum seekers from Muslim, atheist and other faith backgrounds. But in the cases of Christians — and particularly Christian converts — the Home Office takes special care.
Being Christian theoretically should neither help nor hinder a person’s application, said Stephen Rand, a press representative for the parliamentary group. But there’s growing concern that migrants may fake conversion to Christianity, thinking it will improve their chances at being granted asylum.
“I think there is a perception in the Home Office both that individuals will pretend to be from a persecuted minority — which is usually Christian because of the country they are fleeing from — to get asylum, and that individuals will pretend to be a Christian because they think the U.K. will be more sympathetic to Christians,” Rand said. “The Prime Minister is always saying that the U.K. is a Christian country.”
Asylum seekers must submit evidence to back up certain claims in their application. In the case of religious conversion, that might include letters from clergy and proof of church attendance.
Rand said the Home Office might be more inclined to believe a claim backed by physical violence or social ostracism in their country of origin than a claim of conversion after arriving in the U.K.
Reports of mass conversions in European churches have led some to challenge the legitimacy of refugees’ conversion to Christianity.
This may help explain why U.K. officials quiz applicants on details from the Christian gospel. But the report says such questioning is “too simplistic a way to judge if an individual is, for example, a genuine convert. Furthermore, anecdotal evidence has shown that some people are learning as much as they can so they can be prepared for the Home Office interview.”
“Questions must be carefully prepared and decision-makers should not expect an unrealistic level of specialist knowledge,” the report continues.
The Home Office sidestepped accusations in the report, saying in an email to The Huffington Post: “In all asylum claims, including those based on religious beliefs, caseworkers carefully assess protection needs against the background of published country information … and a wide range of other reputable and publicly available sources.”
“While it is reasonable to expect the claimant to demonstrate some understanding of the faith, caseworkers are trained to ask questions tailored to the individual case,” said a Home Office press representative. “Guidance on the interviewing and consideration of religious claims is regularly reviewed and takes into consideration the views of religious groups and other stakeholders.”
The report acknowledges that the Home Office has provided training for staff in recent months that includes dealing with religious cases. But even these guidelines fail to capture the complexities of applications citing religious persecution, the report says.
“In practice, there remain gaps which compromise applicants seeking asylum on grounds of religious persecution being given fair and effective credibility assessments,” the report says.
Fair assessments, it continues, would include checking with interpreters before interviews to ensure that they have an understanding of religious terminology and can accurately translate questions and responses. Caseworkers should also take into account that some asylum seekers may fear their interpreter belongs to a religious or ethnic group that persecuted them in their home country — another issue that arose in several instances cited by the report.
The vast majority of asylum seekers have genuinely experienced atrocities in their countries of origin, said Mohammad Eghtedarian, a refugee from Iran who converted to Christianity. He now serves as a curate at Liverpool Cathedral and has helped other refugees in their conversion and in applying for asylum.
Eghtedarian has seen the desperation in refugees’ faces, he told The Guardian, and he acknowledged that some will lie to improve their chances. But as a clergyman, Eghtedarian said it isn’t his job to verify a person’s faith.
“There are many people abusing the system – I’m not ashamed of saying that. But is it the person’s fault or the system’s fault? And who are they deceiving? The Home Office, me as a pastor, or God?” Eghtedarian asked.
This perception of the deceitful migrant is emblematic of the refugee phobia that has taken hold in many developed countries, particularly those in the European Union that have accepted tens of thousands of refugees fleeing war and religious turmoil. But fears of migrant invasion are disproportionate with reality.
The number of asylum applications the U.K. receives is considerably fewer than in many other countries in the European Union. The U.K. also hosts fewer refugees than many developing countries around the world.
“The perceived population of refugees in the U.K. is often sensationalized by the media, however out of an estimated 60 million, or more, refugees in the world as of mid-2015, the vast majority remain within the region of their countries, with 86 percent hosted by developing countries,” the report says.
Still, the number of refugees fleeing religious persecution and seeking asylum in the U.K. and elsewhere is likely to increase in the coming years, the report acknowledges. Greater religious literacy and sensitivity is key.
“Whatever your nationality,” Rand said, “assessing the truth of someone’s religious convictions is not easy.”