REFUGEE CRISIS EXACERBATED BY RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION
Religious persecution plays a “central role” in the global displacement crisis according to Open Doors 2017 World Watch List. The charity noted that more than half of the world’s 65.3m refugee population come from Somalia, Afghanistan and Syria, all countries in which it has become extremely dangerous to identify as a Christian. In its supplementary report, The Persecution of Christians and Global Displacement, Open Doors said that religious persecution was a “dangerously underestimated” factor behind some people’s decision to flee their homes. The charity estimated that around half of Syria’s 1.7m Christians have left their country due to conflict and persecution. It also said that around 2.1m Nigerians have fled because of various factors, including attacks on Christians by Boko Haram jihadists.
In Asia and Mexico, Christians were driven from their villages for practising a faith differed from that of the majority. Pastor Aminu Sule from Nigeria said his congregation had shrunk from 400 to 20 as Christians fled from attacks by Boko Haram. He said: “I can’t count the number of people I have buried.” Once displaced, Pastor Sule said that Christians are often denied access to aid distributed by the local government. “They are dying of hunger and I cannot help them,” he said. Daniel, a church leader in Iraq, described how he fled from Baghdad after receiving a death threat from Al-Qaeda. His church has helped look after some of the 120,000 Christians chased out by Islamic State, but he added that many had since chosen to be resettled in “countries that respect their human rights”.
The report found some migrants were attacked after leaving their countries, and cited a Nigerian Christian who was abducted and repeatedly assaulted by a gang who had seen a Bible in his pocket. The charity urged the British government to support the right to freedom of religion and belief and to “target” nations where there is violent persecution of religious minorities. It noted that the UK Home Office claims that Pakistani Christians were not at “real risk of persecution.” The report also called on the Home Office to “increase the religious literacy of its staff” so that those who processed asylum applications could recognise instances of religious persecution. It urged the Home Office not to restrict visas for religious leaders invited to the UK to share of the suffering in their own countries.
The UK Home Office faced criticism last month after it denied three archbishops from Iraq and Syria visas to attend the consecration of a Syriac Orthodox cathedral in west London, on the grounds that they lacked sufficient funds to support themselves and they might not leave the UK. Open Doors UK and Ireland urged the British Foreign Office to prioritise freedom of religion and recognise championing that right as a way to combat terrorism and poverty, arguing that unchecked political oppression of a minority “creates a breeding ground for violent and radical groups”. In India, it said, since the landslide election of Hindu nationalist President Narendra Modi in 2014, there has been “a deterioration in freedom in all aspects of Indian society, and Hindu radicals have virtual impunity from the Government”.
Source: World Watch Monitor