Global Guide RUSSIA BELARUS (N. CAUCASUS) KAZAKHSTAN UZBEK. KYRGYZ. TURK. TAJIK. CHINA IRAN LEB SYRIA AFGH. IRAQ PT JORDAN KUWAIT PAKISTAN NEPAL BHUTAN
SAUDI QATAR ARABIA UAE
CHAD SUDAN ERITREA YEMEN
SRI SOMALIA MALDIVES LANKA KENYA
(NORTH-EAST AND COAST)
Where Christians are persecuted around the world
Welcome to the second edition of the Church in Chains Global Guide. The Guide aims to introduce to an Irish audience the situation of persecuted Christians around the world, informing readers about what is happening to Christians in 60 countries and also seeking to motivate readers to respond (see page 46 for suggested action). Throughout the Guide, the word Christian includes all who self-identify as Christian. All churches are included in the Christian statistics for each country. The Guide is divided into geographical sections, and while space only permits an overview of persecution in most countries, the Guide does contain more detailed information about ten “Focus” countries. Church in Chains has been working for several years to support persecuted Christians in these countries by raising awareness, prayer, advocacy and practical support.
Pages 4 & 5
Pages 6 – 8
Europe (Focus on Turkey)
Pages 9 – 12
North Africa (Focus on Egypt)
Pages 13 – 20 Sub-Saharan Africa (Focus on Nigeria & Eritrea) Pages 21 – 23 Middle East Pages 24 & 25 World Map and Country Index Pages 26 – 29 Middle East continued (Focus on Iran) Pages 30 – 33 Central Asia (Focus on Uzbekistan) Pages 34 – 38 South Asia (Focus on India & Pakistan) Pages 39 – 45 East Asia (Focus on China & North Korea) Page 46
What You Can Do; What Church in Chains Does
Sources; Religious Freedom Principles
Compiled and edited by David Turner and Virginia Chipperfield Maps: Global Mapping International Published: July 2014
The Rise in Persecution of Christians Worldwide Persecution of Christians for their religious beliefs is on the rise around the world – 60 countries are listed in this second edition of the Church in Chains Global Guide, compared to 52 in the first edition (published in 2008). Seven of the countries listed in the Global Guide for the first time are from Sub-Saharan Africa, where persecution is mainly caused by armed Islamic terrorist groups. One major source of persecution worldwide is violent religious extremism (by, for example, Hindus in India, Buddhists in Sri Lanka and Muslims in Nigeria and Somalia and other countries), while another source is repressive totalitarian governments (in countries such as North Korea, Eritrea and Uzbekistan). The freedom to change religion is not, in practice, allowed in Muslim countries (42 of which are listed in the Global Guide). As persecution is a very broad term, the Global Guide divides the 60 countries into three colour coded categories – severe, significant and limited. Severe Many or all Christians face persecution. State persecution includes the use of blasphemy laws and apostasy laws, arrests, fines, imprisonment, torture and execution. Persecution by society includes abduction, murder and violent mob attacks (including bombings, shootings and arson). Significant Some, but not all, Christians face many restrictions on practising their faith. Persecution by the state may include arrests, fines, imprisonment, restrictions on church registration and prohibitions on meetings and possessing Bibles. Persecution by society includes attacks on pastors and churches. Limited Most Christians are permitted to meet but some churches or individuals face restriction or discrimination. Some of this persecution is by the state (such as discrimination and restrictions on church registration) and some by society (opposition from neighbours and ostracism).
Persecution of other religions
The persecution of Christians often occurs alongside the persecution of other religious minorities. Church in Chains believes in religious freedom for all and supports the provisions of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and the EU guidelines on Freedom of Religion or Belief (see p 47). Church in Chains condemns any acts of persecution perpetrated by Christians – whether against other Christians or against members of any other religion.
CUBA MEXICO (CHIAPAS)
HAITI DOM. REP. PUERTO RICO
EL SALVADOR NICARAGUA COSTA RICA PANAMA VENEZUELA
FRENCH GUYANA GUIANA SURINAME
Latin America is mainly Christian and historically has been overwhelmingly Roman Catholic. However, the region has undergone massive social changes and the Catholic percentage of the population has dropped to 70%, with many joining evangelical churches and others becoming non-religious. Religious freedom is widespread in the region, having advanced greatly in the past 50 years. The persecution that exists in the three countries highlighted in this section (Colombia, Cuba and Mexico) results from the particular dynamics in those countries.
Population: 47 million Majority Religion: Christianity (95%) Persecution Category: Significant Many Colombians enjoy freedom of religion and there has been huge church growth in recent years. However, a significant percentage suffers persecution from armed guerillas and paramilitaries, funded by the drugs trade and kidnapping for ransom. For about 50 years conflict has raged between government forces, leftist guerillas (notably FARC, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and right-wing paramilitary groups set up as vigilantes to counter the guerrillas. Christian leaders are targeted because of their opposition to violence and the drugs trade: FARC has assassinated hundreds of church leaders over the past fifty years. Strong government has reduced the conflict since 2002, and FARC is in peace talks with the government, but the violence continues and many rural areas, especially in the south and east, remain under guerrilla control. In some areas churches are subject to curfews or closure, and preaching and evangelism are restricted or forbidden, leading some Christians to meet in secret in small groups. Within indigenous communities, converts to Christianity are seen as a threat to the local culture, and many Christians have been denied access to social services or displaced from their lands.
Population: 11 million Majority Religion: Christianity (56%) Persecution Category: Significant
Population: 112 million Majority Religion: Christianity (94%) Persecution Category: Limited (Chiapas)
The Communist Party’s Office of Religious affairs regulates and monitors Christian activity, including the construction, purchase or repair of buildings and the printing or importing of literature. Churches must apply for official recognition and permission to hold meetings. Registration can be slow or denied, and permission to build new churches is difficult to obtain, leading to the growth of an estimated 2,000-10,000 unregistered house churches.
Mexico is a secular state with religious freedom, and most Mexicans are Roman Catholic. Some persecution of Christians occurs in rural communities in the southern states, for two main reasons: refusal of some Christians to participate in religious festivals; and targeting by organised criminal gangs, especially drugs cartels.
Registered churches have relative freedom to meet and repair their buildings. Unregistered churches, however, have seen a rise in violations of their constitutional religious freedom by state security agents in recent years. Pastors have been beaten and detained, congregations harassed (including the arbitrary arrest and detention of parishioners) and Christian human rights activists have been targeted and prevented from attending services. The fastgrowing Apostolic Movement network is a particular target of official repression: the government threatens affiliated churches with closure and refuses to register them.
In the 1960s many people in Chiapas became evangelical Christians, and were seen as betraying their community. The first evangelicals were killed, and over 35,000 were evicted from their homes. This situation improved greatly in the 1990s, but there are still problems in some villages for Christians who refuse to contribute to traditionalist festivals because of heavy drinking and pagan elements (local Folk Catholicism incorporates native Mayan religious beliefs). From the mid-1990s Church in Chains campaigned for “The Innocent of Acteal”, 79 evangelicals from Chiapas imprisoned on false charges of participating in the Acteal “massacre” of 1997 – all but five were released by mid 2014.
CZECH REP. SLOVAKIA
SLOVENIA CROATIA BOS. AND HERZ.
The state of religious freedom in Europe has changed dramatically in the past 25 years. The biggest changes have occurred in eastern Europe, with the demise of communism and the end of the “Iron Curtain”. Churches that had long been repressed began to enjoy religious freedom and this freedom has, by and large, continued.
MACE. ALBANIA GREECE
The Global Guide lists just three countries in Europe (Belarus, Turkey and the North Caucasus region of Russia) where Christians face limited persecution, in contexts particular to each country.
In Russia, human rights violations including religious freedom violations have increased greatly in recent years (particularly against civil society organisations, journalists, gay-rights activists, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Muslims). The Russian Orthodox Church wields enormous political influence and other Christian groups fear that the windows of opportunity for open ministry and religious freedom appear to be closing. IRAN
In Western Europe, the religious freedom landscape has been altered by factors such as: the significant decline in church attendance; the rise in aggressive secularism and particularly the strident views of militant atheists; the spread of radical Islam; and the advancement of equality legislation (in national parliaments and at EU level). Growing concern about the marginalisation of Christians in Europe has been fuelled by a succession of court cases (at national and EU level) in which Christians have been prosecuted for acting in accordance with their beliefs. Often, equality legislation has been used to accuse Christians of discrimination. The most complicated situations have arisen when LGBT rights have been seen as being in conflict with other human rights. The concept of reasonable accommodation is thought by many to offer a way out of such conflict and towards respect for different people and their rights. It is important to note that the rising marginalisation and intolerance experienced by Christians across Europe is not comparable to the persecution experienced by Christians in the countries listed in this Guide.
Population: 9.5 million Majority Religion: Christianity (71%) Persecution Category: Limited Formerly in the USSR, Belarus is considered the most repressive country in Europe. President Aleksandr Lukashenko’s dictatorial government restricts human rights and does not uphold the rule of law. It views independent groups as potential challenges, and uses religious affairs officials and KGB secret police to monitor religious communities. The majority Belarusian Orthodox Church enjoys privileged status while the Catholic and Lutheran churches are tolerated. Unregistered religious activity is banned leading to harassment from the authorities, raids, fines and imprisonment for short periods, although in recent years the government has decreased its repression of religious groups, possibly out of concern that harsh repression would increase political opposition. To register a congregation or building frequently proves impossible, especially for evangelicals and Pentecostals, forcing them to hold unregistered meetings in homes. This has led to many leaders being fined.
RUSSIA (NORTH CAUCASUS)
Population: 1.4 million (Chechnya); 2.9 million (Dagestan) Majority Religion: Islam (90% +) Persecution Category: Limited
Some in Russia’s seven North Caucasus republics resent Russian domination. There is credible evidence of torture, arbitrary detention and killings by Russian forces, often aimed at Muslims identified as devout irrespective of whether they have links with armed groups. There is much corruption and high unemployment, notably in the poorest republic Dagestan. This radicalises some Muslims to aim to establish a Sharia state. Christians face societal harassment, intimidation and discrimination, especially in Chechnya and Dagestan.
Almost all Chechens are Muslim. Many Christians fled Chechnya after suffering greatly in the 1990s wars. Christianity is considered Russia’s religion, and converts from Islam are seen as traitors, disgracing their families – to avoid persecution, they worship in secret. In recent years the Chechen government has financed restoration of Russian Orthodox war-destroyed churches and imposed its own form of Islam, intimidating women into wearing Islamic head coverings and encouraging polygamy.
Dagestan’s population is more than 90% Muslim. In 1999 an attempt by Chechens to Islamise Dagestan was crushed by the Russian army. The small number of Christians is growing: members of the underground church, many of whom are converts from Islam, meet in secret in small home groups. In 2010 a pastor who was a former Muslim was shot dead, having been threatened throughout his ministry.
Focus on Turkey
RUSSIA Black Sea
Population: 75 million Majority Religion: Islam (96%) Christian Population: 163,000 Persecution Category: Limited
Turkey’s constitution grants freedom of religion but there is tension between secularists and Islamists. Islam is controlled by the Diyanet, or Presidency of Religious Affairs. Most Turkish Christians belong to the ancient churches SYRIA CYPRUS IRAQ (especially Armenian Orthodox), which are recognised by the government and Mediterranean Sea LEBANON have permission to meet. Christians, along with all other minorities, however, ISRAEL JORDAN face difficulties in exercising their constitutional freedom, particularly in obtaining permission to build or rent premises for meetings and in training leaders. While European Union accession talks have led to some human rights reforms, religious minorities often find that the legal improvements to their rights are not implemented. Religious pluralism is widely viewed as a threat to Islam and “national unity”, and many believe that, to be a true Turk, one must be a Sunni Muslim. A controversial law, Article 301, prohibits publicly denigrating the Turkish nation, and under its terms Christians have been accused of “anti-Turkishness”. Evangelicals and especially missionaries have been misrepresented widely by the government, the media and in school textbooks, and some missionaries have been beaten. Church buildings are occasionally attacked, and some foreign church workers have been deported or denied renewals of their residency permits. An assassination plot against a pastor was foiled in January 2013, when police arrested 14 people involved in the plot.
• TURKISH CHRISTIANS Turks who leave Islam for Christianity face social and familial ostracism, harassment and Accused of intimidation by the security forces and threats from Turkish nationalists and Muslim extremists. anti-Turkishness In the most serious attack in recent years, two Turkish Christians (both former Muslims) and a Photo: Compass Direct German were tortured and murdered in a Christian publishing house in Malatya in 2007. Church in Chains in Action
Church in Chains has had several meetings at the Turkish Embassy in Dublin in relation to the legal and social difficulties faced by evangelical churches. It supports the work of the Association of Protestant Churches in Turkey and SAT-7 TURK, a Turkish-run Christian satellite television ministry.
North Africa The Arab Spring revolutionary demonstrations and protests which began in Tunisia in December 2010 have had a huge impact on North Africa. The protests swiftly became a rallying point for a young generation which felt alienated from autocratic rulers who had long held power. By December 2013, rulers had been forced from power in Tunisia, Egypt (twice), and Libya; major protests had broken out in Algeria and Morocco, while minor protests had occurred in Mauritania and Western Sahara. The Arab Spring also spread to the Middle East and some countries in SubSaharan Africa.
MONT. SERB. BULGARIA ITALY ALBANIA MACE.
CYPRUS LEBANON ISRAEL
JORDAN SAUDI ARABIA
MAURITANIA MALI SENEGAL GAMBIA GUINEA-BISSAU GUINEA
BURKINA FASO GHANA BENIN
MAURITANIA Population: 3.6 million Majority Religion: Islam (99.8%) Christian population: 8,000 Persecution Category: Significant Mauritania is largely desert and is one of the poorest countries in the world although recent oil finds have given hope of future prosperity. It was formerly a French colony but is now officially an Islamic republic. The legal system is a combination of Sharia (Islamic law) and French civil law. Despite slavery being illegal, there is widespread evidence that it persists. While there is a degree of press freedom, the concept of religious freedom is largely unknown – it is illegal to share the Christian faith – and there is huge social pressure against anyone who leaves Islam. Christians who have left Islam have been imprisoned, beaten for their faith, or have endured ostracism by family or tribe. As in other Muslim-majority countries, police guards are often stationed at the doors of the few church buildings (mainly Roman Catholic) to ensure that Mauritanian citizens do not enter.
Population: 32.6 million Majority Religion: Islam (99.8%) Christian population: 29,000 Persecution Category: Significant
Population: 36.5 million Majority Religion: Islam (97%) Christian population: 100,000 Persecution Category: Significant
Morocco is one of the few Muslim countries that has a king as head of state. It has long been seen as moderate and progressive. After protests in 2011 linked to the Arab Spring, a revised constitution was introduced, which diluted some of the kingâ€™s powers and which was broadly welcomed.
The Sahara covers 80% of Algeria and most of the population lives along the Mediterranean coast. Algeria remains haunted by the shadow of the bloody civil war in the 1990s in which over 200,000 people died. The country has been politically stable in recent years and the government has improved human rights.
The existence of expatriate Christian churches has been tolerated for many years but the emergence of small indigenous churches has not been accepted. Moroccans who become Christians are often arrested and interrogated by police and then placed under close surveillance. They live in an atmosphere of isolation and fear. Various religious and political factions within the country have vied for influence in recent years, leading to waves of persecution of the small Christian community. There has also been a succession of wildly inaccurate and hostile antiChristian campaigns in the media. Many expatriate Christians who were suspected of links with Moroccan Christians have been expelled.
There has been a revival in Christianity over the past decade and growth has been so great that some observers believe the number of Christians far exceeds 100,000. The majority of Christians are ethnically Berber, but there are increasing numbers of Arabs turning from Islam to Christianity. Conversion from Islam is not prohibited by law but it is an offence to share oneâ€™s Christian faith with a Muslim and Christians have been prosecuted and imprisoned under this law. Christians face many difficulties from government officials in registering churches and consequently most meet in house churches, which are officially illegal.
Population: 10.7 million Majority Religion: Islam (99%) Christian population: 23,000 Persecution Category: Significant
Population: 6.4 million Majority Religion: Islam (97%) Christian population: 173,000 Persecution Category: Severe
Street demonstrations in Tunisia in January 2011 led to the resignation of the long-term autocratic president and inspired what became known as the Arab Spring. The replacement transitional government was itself replaced in 2013 as political instability continued.
The overthrow of Colonel Gadaffi in 2011 after ruling for 42 years was one of the most striking events of the Arab Spring. However, ongoing tensions within the transitional government between nationalists and Islamists have thwarted attempts to produce a timetable for elections. This political instability means that Islamist groups in the eastern half of the country have been effectively ruling this area according to their ideology.
In January 2014 a new constitution, considered one of the most progressive in the Arab world, was signed. It enshrines freedom of religion but also pledges to defend the sacred, which could lead to various interpretations. Islamists have been critical of the fact that while Islam is declared to be the state religion, Sharia law has not been recognised as the source of law. Most Christians in Tunisia are Roman Catholic expatriates from many nations, who enjoy considerable freedom. However, the small number of native Christians face pressure from family and society and there are only a few churches composed of Tunisian Christians. Many live as secret believers, as discovery often leads to violence and ostracism from their families.
The growth in influence of Islamists â€“ centred in the city of Benghazi â€“ has led to a marked growth in intolerance of Christians. Under the Gaddafi regime the secret police restricted Christian activities, but the main source of persecution now comes from Islamic militants. A semi-official Islamist police force, based in Benghazi, has rounded up scores of expatriate Christians (mainly Egyptian) and accused them of spreading Christianity to Muslims. Islamic militants were responsible for targeted killings of Egyptian Christians in 2013 and 2014.
Aswan Re d Se a
Focus on Egypt
Population: 85 million Majority Religion: Islam (90%) Christian population: 8.5 million Persecution Category: Significant Egypt has been in turmoil since the January Revolution of 2011 and is under new leadership, following the ousting of President Mohammed Morsi by the army, led by General Abdel al-Sisi (now President), in July 2013 after weeks of mass protests against Morsi’s rule. A new constitution was approved in January 2014, which was seen as being more inclusive of Christians, especially the Coptic Church (Egypt’s largest church).
The removal of President Morsi, leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, was broadly welcomed in Egypt, including by the leadership of the Coptic Church. In August 2013, when police and soldiers forcibly broke up two large camps of Morsi supporters in Cairo, Islamists retaliated by destroying over 70 church buildings and other Christian-owned properties all over Egypt in a single day. For decades, churches have faced great difficulties in obtaining government permits to construct new buildings and repair existing ones. It is hoped that new legislation will be introduced to streamline the process. Another major problem for Christians is the requirement to carry national identity cards that state a person’s religion. There is no provision for anyone who is born a • CHURCH BURNING Muslim to change the religious identity stated on the ID card to Christian and this prohibition Anti-Christian violence causes difficulties in many aspects of life for Christians who are former Muslims (including church Photo: Nile Revolt attendance, employment, travel and marriage). The kidnapping of teenage Christian girls for ransom and for enforced marriage to young Muslim men is a continuing social problem, especially in Upper Egypt, and Christians protest that the police fail to act when such kidnappings are reported.
Church in Chains in Action
Church in Chains has been involved in supporting Christians in Egypt for over twenty years. Two fact-finding visits and constant monitoring of persecution incidents have led to a number of meetings with successive Egyptian Ambassadors to Ireland to discuss religious freedom issues. Church in Chains has sent aid to support poor Christian families and Christians from a Muslim background.
Sub-Saharan Africa Seven of the nine countries listed in the Global Guide for the first time are from Sub-Saharan Africa (Mali, Niger, Chad, Djibouti, Kenya, Tanzania and Comoros), illustrating the growing problem of persecution of Christians in the region. Islamist terrorist groups, drawn from many nations in Africa and beyond, are waging violent campaigns, united by a radical ideology, intent on seizing power and enforcing strict Islamic law.
UAE SAUDI ARABIA
MALI GAMBIA GUINEABISSAU
BURKINA FASO BENIN
GUINEA SIERRA LEONE LIBERIA
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
Boko Haram in Nigeria is the best-known of these groups. Its violent campaign has intensified in recent years, spreading across north and east Nigeria and into neighbouring countries. In the region south of the Sahara, sometimes described as Africa’s religious fault-line between Islam and Christianity, terrorist groups have taken advantage of pre-existing local grievances and weak government. Their campaigns of terror have targeted churches and individual Christians, resulting in huge loss of life.
SAO TOME AND PRINCIPE GABON
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO
KENYA (NORTH-EAST AND COAST) (ZANZIBAR)
Violent persecution of Christians is also on the increase in the Horn of Africa, as terrorist groups linked to the radical Al-Shabaab group from Somalia attack public venues, churches and Christian leaders in Kenya and Tanzania. Both countries have Christianmajority populations but most of the attacks are taking place in Muslim-majority regions.
Not listed in the Guide Christians in the Central African Republic (a majority Christian country) experienced great persecution in 2013 when Seleka, a Muslim rebel group, overthrew the government and unleashed a reign of terror, committing many atrocities that led to the CAR being described as “Hell on Earth”. In early 2014, after the intervention of French and African troops, Seleka was overthrown leading to the end of widespread persecution of Christians. However, violent attacks by opposing militias have continued. Cameroon (another Christian-majority country) has religious freedom but in the north, sandwiched between Nigeria and Chad, Christians are coming under increasing pressure to convert to Islam or move away from the area. Churches have been attacked and burnt (Boko Haram is active in the region). In Uganda churches in parts of the capital, Kampala, have come under threat from Al-Shabaab-linked rebels.
Population: 16 million Majority Religion: Islam (87%) Christian Population: 400,000 approx. Persecution Category: Significant
Population: 17 million Majority Religion: Islam (97%) Christian Population: 50,000 Persecution Category: Limited
The Republic of Mali is one of the world’s poorest countries, blighted by drought, desertification and plagues of locusts. It gained independence from France in 1960 and is constitutionally secular, with freedom of religion and a tradition of peace between Muslims and Christians, the majority of whom live in the south.
The Republic of Niger is 80% desert, with savannah grasslands in the southwest and in a narrow strip along the southern border with Nigeria. It is one of the world’s poorest and least developed countries. A French colony from 1921 to 1960, Niger is constitutionally secular, with full religious freedom, and has been known for peaceful coexistence between the Muslim majority and the tiny Christian minority. However, tension is increasing between Muslims and Christians due to the violence in neighbouring Nigeria and the rise of Islamist groups – dozens have emerged since 1991, some of them extremist. Islamic religious leaders are increasingly pressurising the government to make the country more Islamic.
In 2012, however, ethnic Tuareg rebels working with Al-Qaeda-linked Islamists seized control of the north and declared an independent Islamic state, imposing strict Sharia law. They targeted Christians, destroying all the churches in Gao and Timbuktu and banning baptisms. Many Muslim families protected and hid their Christian neighbours, before most fled south to the capital, Bamako, or to neighbouring countries. In January 2013, French forces drove the Islamists out as they advanced south and helped Malian forces to regain control of the region. Civilian rule was reestablished in summer 2013 but the north remains unstable and many Christians who fled are afraid to return.
The church in Niger is small and faces pressure from Islam, especially in the south. There is social and cultural pressure to remain Muslim, and converts to Christianity can face persecution from family and community, including threats of death and abduction.
Focus on Nigeria
Population: 170 million Majority Religion: Disputed – Muslim majority in north; Christian majority in south Christian population: 85 million (estimated) Persecution Category: Severe (in north)
The Federal Republic of Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country. Independence from Britain in 1960 was followed by decades of coups, civil war and military dictatorship. Nigeria is Africa’s leading oil producer, but the majority of Gulf of Guinea Nigerians live below the poverty line, and corruption is ubiquitous. Nigeria is CONGO constitutionally secular, with freedom of religion. Christians living in the north experience discrimination and violent Islamist attacks, including house burning, abduction and the bombing and torching of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of churches. Thousands of Christians have died: more Christians have been martyred in northern Nigeria in recent years than anywhere else in the world, and many Muslims have been killed in retaliation in the volatile central areas.
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
Since 1999 full Sharia law has been imposed across twelve northern states and there has been a growth of violent Islamist groups, especially Boko Haram, founded in 2002. Its name means “Western education is forbidden”, and it aims to rid the country of Christianity and the federal system and to bring it under its restrictive interpretation of Sharia law. According to the Nigerian • INNOCENT VICTIMS president, since Boko Haram’s latest armed insurgency began in 2010, it has killed at least 12,000 Killed going to church people, including state officials and moderate Muslims. Boko Haram has targeted and destroyed Photo: Vanguard entire Muslim villages it deems to have betrayed it. It has also infiltrated the government, security agencies and judiciary. In central and northern Nigeria, Christians also face deadly raids by ethnic Fulani militants armed with machetes and guns. The motivation is partly to take over land, but the Fulani may be coming under Boko Haram influence. In the central Plateau State, which is predominantly Christian, thousands of Christians have died, homes have been burned and hundreds of churches have been destroyed.
Church in Chains in Action
Church in Chains has met the Nigerian Ambassador to Ireland to raise concerns about the lack of government action to protect Christians in northern Nigeria and has sent aid to support victims of attacks on Christian villages.
Population: 12 million Majority Religion: Islam (53%) Christian Population: 4.4 million Persecution Category: Significant
Population: 46 million Majority Religion: Islam (98%) Christian Population: 200,000 â€“ 500,000 (estimated) Persecution Category: Severe
The Republic of Chad is one of the poorest countries in the world, suffering from corruption, drought and a history of instability and violence. Much of the country is semi-desert, but it produces cotton and has become an oil exporter. Chad gained independence from France in 1960. Three decades of civil war followed, with Libyan involvement, between the north and the south.
Sudan suffered decades of civil war after gaining independence from joint British-Egyptian rule in 1956. The mainly Christian, Animist and African south struggled against economic, political and social domination by the Arab Muslim north; as the war intensified, Islamist militias bombed churches, murdered Christians, destroyed their villages and abducted women and children into slavery. War ended with the signing of the north-south Comprehensive Peace Accord in 2005, and South Sudan seceded in 2011.
Northern Chad is mainly Arab Muslim, while the south is mainly Christian. Chad is a secular state, with freedom of religion, and is open to missionaries. However, Christians living in Muslim areas face discrimination, social exclusion and harassment, and Muslims who convert to Christianity face pressure from family and community to return to Islam â€“ some have had to flee their homes because of threats of violence. There is growing religious tension because of Islamist rebel threats to make Chad an Islamic republic and remove all other religions, especially Christianity.
President Omar al-Bashir intends to make Sudan a fully Islamic state, and his government is waging a campaign against Christians, especially apostates from Islam, who are legally punishable by death. Government intimidation and harassment is forcing hundreds of thousands of Christians of South Sudanese origin out of Sudan. Persecution of Christians includes arrest, interrogation and detention without charge, demolition of churches and deportation of foreign Christian workers. The government has said that it will not grant licences for new church buildings.
Population: 90 million Majority Religion: Christianity (61%) Persecution Category: Significant
Population: 964,000 Majority Religion: Islam (97%) Christian Population: 15,000 Persecution Category: Limited
The Federal Republic of Ethiopia was never colonised, apart from Italian occupation from 1936 to 1941. It has suffered from drought, famine and violent political upheaval and has waged war against Eritrea. The majority of Christians belong to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, which was the state church from 1270 until 1974, when a Marxist junta overthrew Emperor Haile Selassie. The new regime persecuted all perceived opponents including Christians, especially evangelicals, killing many and destroying churches. The overthrow of the junta in 1991 led to stability, and freedom for Christians.
The Republic of Djibouti gained independence from France in 1977. Tension between its two main ethnic groups (of Somali and Ethiopian origin) led to civil war in the 1990s. Djibouti suffers from food shortages and very high unemployment, and depends on French aid, but its strategic location at the mouth of the Red Sea has attracted large French and American military bases, fostering relative peace and safety.
However, while the constitution protects religious freedom, some Christians face discrimination and violent Islamist attacks. About 34% of Ethiopians are Muslim, and in the predominantly Muslim west, pastors and evangelists are sometimes attacked, homes burned and meetings raided, with worshippers beaten and occasionally killed. Thousands of Christians have fled the west. Also, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church has caused problems for members joining renewal movements or leaving for other denominations.
Djiboutiâ€™s constitution grants religious freedom, but Islam is the state religion and the government attempts to control Christianity, recognising only the French Protestant, Roman Catholic and Ethiopian Orthodox churches. These churches sponsor several much-needed aid projects. Expatriates enjoy religious freedom, and there are evangelical fellowships amongst immigrant groups, but evangelism is discouraged (although not illegal) and the small number of converts from Islam face pressure from religious leaders in their communities and persecution from family and society, including ostracism, beatings and even murder.
SAUDI ARABIA Red Sea
Focus on Eritrea
Population: 5.6 million Major Religions: Islam (50%), Christianity (47%) Christian Population: 2.5 million Persecution Category: Severe
Eritrea is one of the worldâ€™s most repressive countries. It gained independence from Ethiopia in 1991 after a 30-year war, and the two countries fought a border war from 1998 to 2000, following which the Eritrean government became Assab ETHIOPIA increasingly repressive. In 2001 President Isaias Afewerki, who had led the fight Gulf of for independence, oversaw a crackdown on political opposition, the media DJIBOUTI Aden and anyone considered a threat to the government, including Christians. In 2002 the government banned all religious groups except the Eritrean Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Lutheran churches and Sunni Islam. Christians from banned denominations meet in secret. If discovered they are imprisoned in appalling conditions in shipping containers, open air facilities in military camps, pits in the ground and police stations, without charge or trial. The number of imprisoned Christians fluctuates between about 1,500 and 3,000; many others are under house arrest. Beatings, torture, starvation and lack of medical care (even after bones are broken in beatings) leave many prisoners disabled and some dead. Many come under severe pressure to recant their faith. If they refuse they are brutally punished and threatened that their families will be arrested. Some Christians have been in prison, incommunicado, for over ten years. â€˘ SHIPPING CONTAINERS Even permitted churches face interference and increasing persecution. In 2006 the government Used as prisons deposed the Eritrean Orthodox Patriarch because he resisted government interference Photo: VOM Canada and asked for the release of Christian prisoners. Since then he has been under house arrest, incommunicado. Priests seen as sympathising with him have been detained, harassed, forced out of the church and conscripted. Many Christians are amongst the 3,000 Eritreans who flee the country every month. Many are trafficked to torture camps in Sinai where they are brutally treated pending payment of exorbitant ransoms. Those who cannot raise the ransom are murdered or have their organs forcibly harvested.
Church in Chains in Action
Church in Chains has campaigned extensively for the release of Christian prisoners including jointly organising an annual protest vigil at the Eritrean Embassy in London and has sent aid to the families of Christian prisoners.
Population: 10 million Majority Religion: Islam (99.7%) Christian Population: a few hundred Persecution Category: Severe
Population: 43 million Maj. Religion: Christianity (83%) Persecution Category: Significant (North East and Coast)
Somalia was formed in 1960, after independence from Britain and Italy. It suffers from drought, famine, lawlessness, violence and corruption. When civil war began in 1991 all church buildings were destroyed and the church was driven underground. Many Christians fled the country – today a few hundred remain, mostly converts from Islam who live in fear of betrayal and meet in extreme secrecy or worship alone.
The Republic of Kenya gained independence from Britain in 1963. There is full religious freedom and Christians and Muslims have traditionally lived in peace, although there is increasing tension. Kenya’s Muslim population is about 8%, located mainly along the coast. In regions where Muslims predominate they are seeking to Islamise society and implement Sharia law, and there is increasing violence against Christians, especially in the northeast, but also in Mombasa. Converts from Islam to Christianity face persecution from their families and from Muslim leaders.
In 2000 a Transitional Federal Government was set up, but Islamist groups emerged and took control of some areas. The most dangerous is the Al-Qaedalinked terrorist group Al-Shabaab (Arabic for “The Youth”), which aims to impose strict Sharia law and to eradicate Christianity. Since seizing control of central and southern Somalia in 2008 it has murdered dozens of Christians, targeting converts from Islam. In 2012 a new parliament and president were sworn in, but AlShabaab still controls rural areas in the centre and south of the country.
In 2011 Kenya sent troops into neighbouring Somalia in pursuit of Islamist militant group Al-Shabaab, which it accused of kidnappings and murders in Kenya. Al-Shabaab’s leaders warned that reprisal attacks would follow. Members driven out of Somalia have taken refuge in northeast Kenya and have carried out gun, grenade and bomb attacks on churches. AlShabaab was responsible for the Westgate Shopping Mall attack in Nairobi in 2013.
Population: 50 million Major Religions: Christianity (54%) Islam (31%) Persecution Category: Significant
Population: 800,000 Majority Religion: Islam (99%) Christian Population: 6,000 (estimated) Persecution Category: Limited
The United Republic of Tanzania was formed in 1964 after the union of Tanganyika and the semiautonomous Zanzibar Archipelago, both former British colonies. Tanzania is very poor, but politically stable. Christians and Muslims live in peace in most regions, but recent years have seen the rise of Islamism, with tensions over issues such as animal slaughter – some Muslims have attacked Christians for slaughtering and selling meat that is not halal (killed in accordance with Sharia law).
The Union of the Comoros consists of three main islands in the Indian Ocean, between Madagascar and Mozambique. One of the poorest countries in Africa, it is densely populated and suffers from high unemployment and instability – since independence from France in 1975 there have been over 20 coups or attempted coups.
The majority of Islamist attacks take place in Zanzibar, which is 98% Muslim. Churches have been bombed and burned down, leaving some Christians dead and many wounded, while others have been injured in machete attacks and burned with acid. Several church leaders have been murdered. In 2001 the organisation “UAMSHO” (The Association of Islamic Mobilisation and Propaganda) was founded to seek autonomy for Zanzibar and impose Sharia law. In 2012 it began threatening and attacking Christians.
The constitution provides for freedom of religion, but a 2009 referendum enabled the government to make Islam the state religion. Islamic extremism is increasing, and many Comorans are also involved with occult practices. Evangelism is forbidden, and harassment of Christians and discrimination against them are widespread. Comoran Christians are not allowed to gather for public worship. The few permitted church buildings are strictly for expatriate Christians, who are not allowed to import Christian materials, and can legally be expelled from the country for proselytism. Converts from Islam to Christianity face harassment and persecution from family, community and local authorities.
The future existence of the church in the Middle East has become a major concern in recent years fuelled by the exodus of hundreds of thousands of Christians from the region – many escaping from wars in Iraq and Syria. In other countries, the concept of religious freedom (especially in relation to leaving Islam) is simply not recognised – even in Gulf states viewed as relatively liberal. Rising intolerance and violent threats have made life increasingly difficult for Christians. Israel is the only country in the region not listed in the Global Guide, because there is freedom of religion (including freedom to evangelise). While there are sporadic attacks on churches in Israel, the authorities generally act to protect Christian property. Messianic Jews (Jews who follow Christ) have suffered some discrimination, but this situation is improving.
BAHRAIN QATAR U.A.E. OMAN
Population: 21 million Majority Religion: Islam (90%) Christian population: 800,000 Persecution Category: Severe Over 150,000 people have been killed in the civil war that began in 2011, while 4 million Syrians have become refugees in neighbouring countries. In many areas of the country, Christians have been targeted by rebels, many of whom want a Sunni Muslim state. Hundreds of thousands of Christians have had to leave their homes, and many have been raped, kidnapped for ransom, tortured and killed. Over 30% of Syria’s churches have been seriously damaged or totally destroyed as a result of the fighting. Syrian church leaders have warned that the continuing violence threatens the very existence of the church in Syria. Before the civil war, Syria was one of the safest places in the Arab world for Christians, who were allowed to worship and practise their faith without much official interference. Most Syrian Christians were Orthodox or Catholic; there was also a small but growing Protestant church.
Population: 4.4 million Majority Religion: Islam (54%) Christian population: 1.7 million Persecution Category: Limited
Population: 6.5 million Majority Religion: Islam (96%) Christian population: 144,000 Persecution Category: Limited
Lebanon is the only Arab state that is not officially Muslim. It has the highest percentage of Christians (40% approx) of any country in the Middle East, and is the only Muslim-majority nation in the region where people are free to change their religion.
Jordanâ€™s parliament is elected by popular vote but the King retains power to choose a Prime Minister and veto any decisions made by parliament. The presence of over 1 million refugees (long-term Palestinian refugees plus refugees from Iraq and Syria) has stretched resources and led to instability and tension.
Most Lebanese Christians belong to the Maronite (Eastern Catholic) church. Others are Eastern Orthodox and there is a small number of evangelicals. The constitution decrees that the president, prime minister and speaker of parliament must be Maronite Christian, Sunni Muslim and Shia Muslim, respectively â€“ to ensure a balance of power. Despite tensions between the different groups, religious freedom has been largely upheld and Lebanon has continued to be a place of refuge for those fleeing religious persecution in other Middle Eastern countries. The conflict in Syria has spilled over into Lebanon â€“ in 2014, Syrian refugees were estimated to make up around a quarter of the population, and this has inflamed some underlying sectarian tensions.
Sunni Islam is the state religion but the constitution prohibits discrimination and guarantees freedom of religion. Christians (the majority of whom are Orthodox) enjoy relative freedom, but there is some pressure on evangelical churches, which have doubled in size in the past 20 years. Most of this growth has come from other churches, but in recent years a significant number of Muslims have become Christians. Some Christian converts from Islam have been questioned and threatened by the security services. They have also been socially ostracised, and some have faced threats and physical and verbal abuse from their families and Muslim religious leaders.
Population: 4.5 million Majority Religion: Islam (88%) Christian population: 40,000 Persecution Category: Limited
Population: 34 million Majority Religion: Islam (98%) Christian population: 330,000 Persecution Category: Severe
The Palestinian Territories comprise the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. A reconciliation agreement was signed in March 2014 between Fatah (in control of the West Bank) and Hamas (in control of Gaza), with unity as its aim. Many Palestinian Christians feel marginalised by extremist Muslims and Israel and ignored by the worldwide church.
The exodus of Christians from Iraq continues at an alarming rate. Hundreds of thousands have fled in response to targeted violence, reducing the Christian population to a quarter of the size it was in 1990. Most of the violence is sectarian, perpetrated by Sunni Muslim extremists against Shia Muslim and Christian targets.
There are only about 1,500 Christians left in Gaza, which is one of the poorest and most densely populated areas of the world. Three churches (Orthodox, Catholic and Evangelical) seek to operate in an often hostile environment where the Christian community is under constant pressure. Christians have been leaving Gaza in large numbers, many going to the West Bank.
Such violence overshadows all political life in Iraq, where lack of government control means that militants are free to act with impunity. In June 2014, most of the Christian population of Mosul, Iraqiâ€™s second city, fled the city as it was overrun by fighters from the radical Sunni Muslim group ISIS.
Christians in the West Bank enjoy much greater freedom and churches generally operate freely. The Bible Society has a number of centres distributing Bibles and material aid, and over 100 students attend Bethlehem Bible College (an Evangelical training centre).
Most Iraqi Christians are Catholic or Orthodox and trace their history back to the first century. The evangelical community is small but growing: many from Muslim backgrounds become Christians through the witness of others, gospel radio and through dreams and visions of Jesus. They are obvious targets for persecution.
p 34 Afghanistan p 10 Algeria p 30 Azerbaijan p 28 Bahrain p 36 Bangladesh p7 Belarus p 40 Bhutan p 41 Brunei p 40 Burma p 16 Chad p 44 China p4 Colombia p 20 Comoros p5 Cuba p 17 Djibouti p 12 Egypt p 18 Eritrea p 17 Ethiopia p 37 India p 42 Indonesia p 29 Iran p 23 Iraq p 22 Jordan p 32 Kazakhstan Kenya (North-East) p 19 p 28 Kuwait p 32 Kyrgystan p 43 Laos p 22 Lebanon p 11 Libya
ALGERIA CUBA MAURITANIA MALI MEXICO (CHIAPAS) COLOMBIA
Persecution Category Severe Significant Limited
RUSSIA BELARUS (N. CAUCASUS) KAZAKHSTAN UZBEK. KYRGYZ. TURK. TAJIK. CHINA IRAN LEB SYRIA AFGH. IRAQ PT JORDAN KUWAIT PAKISTAN NEPAL BHUTAN
SAUDI QATAR ARABIA UAE
CHAD SUDAN ERITREA YEMEN
SRI SOMALIA MALDIVES LANKA KENYA
(NORTH-EAST AND COAST)
Malaysia Maldives Mali Mauritania Mexico Morocco Nepal Niger Nigeria North Korea Oman Pakistan Palestinian Territories Philippines (Mindanao) Qatar Russia (North Caucasus) Saudi Arabia Somalia Sri Lanka Sudan Syria Tajikistan Tanzania Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan United Arab Emirates Uzbekistan Vietnam Yemen
p 41 p 35 p 14 p9 p5 p 10 p 36 p 14 p 15 p 45 p 27 p 38 p 23 p 42 p 28 p7 p 26 p 19 p 35 p 16 p 21 p 31 p 20 p 11 p8 p 31 p 27 p 33 p 43 p 26
Population: 29 million Majority Religion: Islam (93%) Christian population: 1.4 million Persecution Category: Severe
Population: 26 million Majority Religion: Islam (99%) Christian population: 19,000 Persecution Category: Severe
Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam and home to its two holiest sites, Mecca and Medina. It is ruled by a monarchy that subscribes to a strict interpretation of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism. Other forms of Islam are restricted and public practising of other religions is forbidden. Blasphemy and apostasy carry a death sentence. Human rights are severely limited â€“ especially the right to freedom of expression and the rights of women.
Yemen is the poorest country in the Middle East and is a fertile ground for Islamist terrorism. Several militant groups inspired by Al-Qaeda are very active fighting in the south and the north west, meaning that the country remains very unstable.
Religious freedom does not exist in Saudi Arabia and no church buildings are permitted. The small number of Saudi Christians must practise their faith in extreme secrecy. Although expatriate Christians are officially permitted to worship in private, their meetings may be raided by the mutawa (religious police), and they may be harassed, detained or deported. Christian migrant workers from countries such as Ethiopia, India and the Philippines are often targeted due to the low levels of protest from their governments.
Islam is the state religion of Yemen, and Sharia is the source of all the countryâ€™s law. Conversion from Islam is considered apostasy, and is punishable by death. It is illegal to evangelise Muslims. The very small number of Yemeni Christians, who are all converts from Islam, risk severe reprisals for practising their faith, including arrest, torture and extra-judicial killing. Converts also face danger from their families and communities. Most Christians in Yemen are expatriate workers (westerners, south and east Asians, Arabs) or refugees (mainly Ethiopian) who are allowed to meet freely in house churches. However, Aden is the only place where there are official church buildings.
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
Population: 3 million Majority Religion: Islam (89%) Christian population: 80,000 Persecution Category: Limited
Population: 8 million Majority Religion: Islam (68%) Christian population: 400,000 Persecution Category: Limited
Oman is one of the most developed countries in the Gulf and enjoys a reasonably open and liberal society. Most Omanis follow the Ibadi sect of Islam, and the Sultan has consistently opposed extremist strains of Islam. All residents are free to practise their religion, and the government has donated land for places of worship to be built. The vast majority of Christians in Oman are expatriate workers.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a federation of seven states: Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm al-Quwain. Although each state maintains a large degree of independence, the UAE is governed by a Supreme Council of Rulers made up of seven emirs, who appoint the prime minister and the cabinet.
Churches are very active, conducting many activities including home groups and Alpha courses, but a major problem is finding places to meet. Churches must meet in officially approved buildings so each church building may be used by over 20 congregations each week. There are no restrictions on evangelism among expatriates, who are mainly Asian, but evangelism among Muslims is illegal. There is little state-sponsored persecution of Christians. However, the few Omanis who have become Christians face huge pressure from family and society to return to Islam.
The UAE is seen as a predominantly consumerist country with a Muslim veneer. The skyscrapers and opulent shopping facilities of Abu-Dhabi and Dubai have become well known to international travellers. Religious freedom is enjoyed by all major religions, with ruling families giving land for places of worship for expatriate Christians, Hindus and Sikhs. There are church complexes in all major cities, almost all of which are full to capacity. However, the government acts to suppress anything that is perceived to challenge the status quo, including the conversion of nationals from Islam.
Population: 2 million Majority Religion: Islam (89%) Christian population: 90,000 Persecution Category: Significant
Population: 1.4 million Majority Religion: Islam (83%) Christian population: 80,000 Persecution Category: Limited
Population: 3 million Majority Religion: Islam (82%) Christian population: 420,000 Persecution Category: Significant
Qatar has the highest per capita income in the world and its citizens pay no taxes. The majority of the population are non-Arab migrant workers (most from south Asia) who are treated very poorly. Qatari nationals only make up about 15% of the population.
Bahrain is a collection of small islands and is home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet. Bahrain is linked to Saudi Arabia by a 25km long causeway. The governing royal family is Sunni Muslim, while 70% of the population are Shiites. Bahrain’s liberal reputation in the region was damaged by a severe crackdown, aided by Saudi forces, on Arab Spring protests in 2011.
Kuwait is a small, oil-rich country nestling at the top of the Persian Gulf. It has been invaded twice in the past 25 years. Arab Spring protests led to the resignation of the government in 2011, leading to three elections in the following two years. The emir has the final say in matters of state and chooses the prime minister.
The strict Wahhabi form of Sunni Islam is the state religion. The government permits church buildings for expatriates (many of whom meet in a large “Church City” complex) but evangelism of Muslims is strictly forbidden, and results in deportation for foreigners. Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood and the influential Al Jazeera television station (with its headquarters in Qatar) has led to increasing tensions with other Gulf States.
Bahrain is one of the most religiously tolerant of the Gulf States. The vast majority of Christians are foreigners who worship in 80 different churches and fellowships. Evangelism among Muslims is illegal and the small number of Bahraini Christians from a Muslim background face great pressure from society to revert.
Most Christians in Kuwait are expatriate workers, who are free to meet in ten official church buildings. However, evangelism of Muslims is forbidden. There are a few hundred Kuwaiti Christians, all from a Muslim background. They meet in small underground fellowships but some are making themselves known publicly. Converts often face harassment and pressure from families.
Focus on Iran
Population: 80 million Majority Religion: Islam (99%) Christian population: At least 385,000 Persecution Category: Severe In 2013 the self-proclaimed moderate Hassan Rouhani was elected president of Iran, but apart from the release of a few political prisoners, there has been no significant improvement in human rights or religious freedom. He is subject to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, known for his conservative views. Iran is the home of Shia Islam, which touches the emotions and emphasises self-denial and martyrdom. It is the state religion, followed by about 89% of Iranians (10% follow Sunni Islam, the majority form of Islam worldwide). Religious freedom is constitutionally guaranteed, and the historic churches (Armenian, Assyrian and Chaldean Orthodox) enjoy relative freedom. However, minority religions that are not recognised by the constitution are severely restricted and members often face harassment, arrest and torture. This applies especially to the Baha’i, Sufi Muslims and Christians from a Muslim background.
• NEW TESTAMENTS The government is very concerned by the huge growth of the house church movement, viewing In great demand house churches as a threat to Islam because their members are mainly former Muslims. When Photo: Elam Ministries a house church is discovered, the leaders are often arrested and tortured in an effort to track down all members. Most Christian activity is illegal, including evangelism, Bible training and publishing Christian books. Nevertheless, over 1 million New Testaments have been distributed by Iranian Christians in recent years. In prison, Christians suffer harsh conditions and are often beaten in an effort to make them recant their faith. In recent years, more than 300 Christians have been arrested and imprisoned arbitrarily – over 40 received significant prison sentences. Church in Chains in Action
Church in Chains is in regular contact with the Iranian Embassy in Dublin on religious freedom issues and campaigned extensively for Youcef Nadarkhani, a Christian sentenced to death in 2010, who was eventually released in September 2012. Church in Chains has channelled aid to the families of persecuted Christians and has supplied literature and resources to Christians in Iran.
Central Asia Central Asia is an often-forgotten region surrounded by powerful and influential countries such as Russia, China and Iran. Despite many natural resources such as oil and gas, most of the population of the region lives in poverty.
KAZAKHSTAN Aral Sea
AZERBAIJAN Caspian Sea
The governance of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan has hardly changed in the 23 years since they became independent countries after the break-up of the Soviet Union. Elections are normally rigged and police brutality towards any organised non-government activity is commonplace. All of society is kept strictly under government control including religion. Islam is the main religion in each country but anyone (Muslim or Christian) whose beliefs are different from the government-approved religious bodies comes under close scrutiny.
AZERBAIJAN Population: 9.6 million Majority Religion: Islam (96%)
Christian population: 250,000 Persecution Category: Limited
President Ilham Aliev has ruled Azerbaijan since 2003, succeeding his father who was in power from 1969. Despite massive oil wealth and attempts to portray the country as modern and progressive, much of the population remains in poverty. There are serious restrictions on freedoms of religion, expression, speech and association. Most Christians are of Russian or Armenian ethnicity and belong to Orthodox churches, which enjoy relative freedom. A law passed in 2009 required the compulsory re-registration of all religious communities and was seen as designed to close down churches legally. Only two Protestant churches, both in the capital, Baku, have successfully re-registered. Dozens of other Protestant congregations – including Baptist and Pentecostal congregations – as well as hundreds of mosques and several Jehovah’s Witness communities have not been approved. Tight censorship is imposed on all religious literature and the Old Testament is on a banned list and has been confiscated during police raids.
Population: 5.2 million Majority Religion: Islam (96%) Christian population: 95,000 Persecution Category: Severe
Population: 7.1 million Majority Religion: Islam (98%) Christian population: 73,000 Persecution Category: Limited
Turkmenistan is mainly desert, flanked by two populated strips of land. Despite large natural gas and cotton resources, most people live in poverty. Turkmenistan is governed by one of the most repressive regimes in the world and human rights violations are extensive. Denial of freedom of religion is intertwined with denial of the rights to freedoms of assembly, speech, expression and movement. The state controls all religious leaders and communities and imposes severe restrictions on religious education and sharing beliefs.
Tajikistan is the smallest country in Central Asia, with 93% of its area being mountainous. Some 80% of the population is ethnic Kyrgyz,16% Uzbek and 1% Russian. It is the poorest country in the region and is still recovering from a five-year civil war in the 1990s that claimed 50,000 lives.
Most Christians in Turkmenistan are Orthodox and are of Russian, Ukrainian or Armenian ethnicity. The government is hostile to any independent Christian activity and evangelicals are targeted by police. They face arrest, interrogation, fines and occasionally imprisonment, especially for meeting in unregistered gatherings, and religious literature is confiscated. Summer camps have been raided by police and teenagers detained. Ethnic Turkmen Christians are few but have increased in recent years to over 1,000.
All religious activity outside state control (including Muslim, Christian, Jewish and Jehovahâ€™s Witness) has been targeted by the state. A Parental Responsibility Law includes a total ban on participation by people under the age of 18 in any religious activity, apart from funerals. Most Christians are Russian Orthodox but there is a small native Tajik church, numbering over 1,000 members. Churches and leaders are under constant pressure from government officials to give information about their activities. A law introduced in 2012 strengthened the governmentâ€™s control even further by stipulating that religious communities would need government permission before having foreign Christian visitors.
Population: 17 million Majority Religion: Islam (54%) Christian population: 2 million Persecution Category: Significant
Population: 5.5 million Majority Religion: Islam (89%) Christian population: 290,000 Persecution Category: Limited
Kazakhstan is the world’s largest landlocked country and is larger than western Europe. However, its population density is very low – fewer than six people per square kilometre. Ethnic Kazakhs make up over half the population while Russians account for a quarter. Kazakhstan has increasingly restricted freedom of religion in recent years, banning all activity without state permission. Sunni Islam, the majority religion, is under total state control and other Muslim groups, such as Ahmadis, are banned.
Most of Kyrgyzstan is composed of mountains, including part of the mighty Tien-Shan range. It shares borders with Kazakhstan, China, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Some 70% of the population is ethnic Kyrgyz, 14% Uzbek and 9% Russian. Almost a third of the country’s population lives below the poverty line.
The Russian Orthodox Church (the largest church in Kazakhstan) experiences few difficulties as it is officially seen as a “traditional religion”, but others such as Baptists and Pentecostals are facing increasing problems. A restrictive law refuses registration to groups of fewer than 50 people, impacting on many small evangelical churches. Police frequently raid church meetings, confiscate Bibles and arrest leaders and members who then face large fines. An atheist and a retired Pentecostal pastor have both been held in psychiatric hospitals for no medical reason.
The majority religions (Islam and Russian Orthodox Christianity) enjoy relative freedom although their gatherings sometimes face police inspections. However, religious minorities including Ahmadis, Baha’is, Jehovah’s Witnesses and evangelical Christians face many restrictions. Minority churches (including Baptists and Pentecostals) have been refused registration and face police raids. Strict censorship laws affect the printing and distribution of religious literature. Ethnic Kyrgyz are now a significant proportion of the nation’s Christians, having previously been a tiny minority. New Christians from a Muslim background often face opposition and intimidation from family and community leaders. Non-Muslims face severe problems in burying their dead.
KAZAKHSTAN Aral Sea
Bukhara Samarkand TURKMENISTAN
Focus on Uzbekistan Population: 28 million Majority Religion: Islam (85%) Christian population: 208,000 Persecution Category: Severe Uzbekistan is 90% desert and mountain, with fertile valleys in the east, where the capital Tashkent is located. The Silk Road runs through the country including the famed historic cities of Samarkand and Bukhara. Uzbekistan is one of the world’s biggest producers of cotton.
The state violates many human rights and restricts freedoms of religion, speech, press and assembly. Torture is routine and corruption is widespread. Religion is very tightly controlled by the state: any independent religious activity is seen as a threat to state control of society, and sharing beliefs of any kind is a crime. Ethnic Uzbeks who leave Islam for Christianity often experience hostility from family and community, including ostracism or beatings. The Uzbek Bible Society is permitted, but it is heavily restricted and Bibles may not be sold through any other outlets. Most Christians in Uzbekistan are of Russian ethnicity and attend Russian Orthodox churches. State permission is compulsory for religious communities, but only some have been allowed to • UZBEK CHRISTIANS exist (Muslim groups, Jews, Russian Orthodox and some Protestants). Registration difficulties – Meeting in open air including refusal and delays – have led to the growth of the house church movement. Photo: Persecution.tv Unregistered religious activity is illegal and Uzbek police and security forces raid unregistered, and sometimes registered, religious groups and detain members for “illegal” activities such as teaching religion, possessing unapproved religious literature, discussing their faith or singing religious songs. Detention and arrest is often followed by beating and torture. Christians in Uzbekistan also experience harassment, property seizure, dismissal from jobs and huge fines for illegal religious activities.
Church in Chains in Action
Church in Chains has campaigned on behalf of imprisoned Christians across central Asia. In association with trusted partners, it has supported the provision of Uzbek New Testaments and a “safe house” for Christian ministry in the region.
South Asia South Asia is a melting pot of diverse cultural and religious influences linking the Middle East to the Far East. It is made up of countries, most with huge populations, which suffer widespread poverty and natural disasters. Religious and tribal rivalries have led to wars between countries and within several countries. Each one now has democratic government with elections held regularly, including India, which is the world’s largest democracy.
UZBEK. KYRGYZSTAN TURKMENISTAN TAJIKISTAN
BAHRAIN QATAR UAE SAUDI ARABIA
THAILAND CAMBODIA VIETNAM
SRI LANKA MALDIVES
MALAYSIA SINGAPORE INDONESIA
Conditions for Christians in the region vary hugely – from severe persecution in Muslim-majority Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Maldives to significant persecution in parts of India (from Hindu extremists) and Sri Lanka (from Buddhist extremists) through to limited persecution in Nepal and Bangladesh, where relatively liberal governments have come under pressure from Hindu extremists (Nepal) and Muslim fundamentalists (Bangladesh) to introduce restrictive laws. There has been large-scale church growth in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka in recent years.
AFGHANISTAN Population: 33 million Majority Religion: Islam (99.85%)
Christian population: 500 – 8,000 (estimated) Persecution Category: Severe
Decades of violent conflict brought terrible suffering to the people of Afghanistan and ruined its economy and infrastructure. The state religion is Islam and Sharia law prevails. Christianity is seen as a Western religion, and converts from Islam are considered apostate – they face hostility from the government, armed groups, community and family, and suffer discrimination, harassment, arrest and violence, including murder. There are no church buildings and Christians must worship in extreme secrecy. The 2004 constitution allows non-Muslims to exercise their faith “within the limits of the provisions of law”, but states that no law can be contrary to Islam. In July 2013, an MP called for the execution of converts from Islam to Christianity, the parliamentary speaker ordered the national security services to stop the spread of Christianity and the media campaigned against converts. Christians still face great danger from extremist Taliban militants, resurgent in the south and east.
Population: 21 million Majority Religion: Buddhism (70%) Christian Population: 1.7 million Persecution Category: Significant
Population: 324,000 Majority Religion: Islam (99%) Christian Population: 500 Persecution Category: Severe
A tropical island off southern India, Sri Lanka suffered more than 25 years of civil war (between the Sinhalese majority and the Tamil minority), which ended in 2009 when the government crushed the Tamil Tiger separatists.
The Maldives, an archipelago of 1,200 coral islands in the Indian Ocean, is one of the strictest Islamic nations in the world. All citizens must be Sunni Muslims – leaving Islam is illegal and risks loss of citizenship – and there are no non-Muslim places of worship. The Maldives is under Sharia law, and Maldivians are under social and official surveillance to ensure they do not stray from Islam.
The Constitution grants “foremost place” to Buddhism, but guarantees freedom for other religions, although in practice minority religions face discrimination. Christianity, introduced by the Portuguese in the 16th century, is considered a foreign religion. Since the 1980s the growth of evangelical Christianity has met with persecution including church burning, personal attacks, death threats and even murder. Nontraditional churches and converts from Buddhism face the most persecution. Since 2012 there has been an increase in attacks on Christians by Buddhist extremist groups. These attacks are often carried out by large mobs, including monks, and most go unpunished. Muslims are also targeted. In recent years there have been more than 450 documented acts of violence against Christians.
Churches and Christian literature are forbidden, and evangelism is punishable by house arrest or up to five years’ imprisonment. The few Maldivian Christians hide their faith to avoid discovery, which could lead to ostracism, discrimination and arrest. Expatriate Christians may meet in embassies in the capital, Malé, but if found sharing their faith they are deported. Islamic fundamentalists are gaining influence and putting pressure on the government. In 2012 the liberal president was forced to resign and since then the authorities have tightened their control of religion.
Population: 152 million Majority Religion: Islam (90%) Christian Population: 1 million Persecution Category: LImited
Population: 31 million Majority Religion: Hindu (75%) Christian Population: 2 million (estimated) Persecution Category: Limited
The People’s Republic of Bangladesh is one of the world’s most densely populated countries and one of its poorest, prone to flooding and cyclones. Formerly East Pakistan, Bangladesh was born in 1971 after civil war with West Pakistan (now Pakistan). Years of coups and military rule followed, but since 1991 Bangladesh has had a democratically elected government, although it remains politically volatile.
Until 2006 the world’s only Hindu kingdom, Nepal became a secular republic in 2008. It is still struggling to overcome the legacy of a ten-year Maoist insurrection that ended in 2006, leaving a ruined economy and political instability. A secular interim government established in 2007 granted religious freedom, but the interim constitution banned proselytism, putting Christians who evangelise at risk of fines, imprisonment and, in the case of expatriates, expulsion. A Maoistdominated government took office in 2008, and other governments have followed, but a new constitution has yet to be written.
One of very few Muslim democracies, Bangladesh is traditionally moderate and tolerant, and Christians have more freedom than in most other Muslim countries. However, minorities (including Hindus) sometimes face discrimination from local authorities and society, and Muslims who become Christians face persecution by family, neighbours and Islamic leaders. The growth of Muslim extremism in recent years has led to increased persecution, including threats, abductions, rape, beatings and arson. Since 2013, Islamists have intensified their anti-Christian violence and their campaign for the introduction of blasphemy laws (with death penalty) and the establishment of Sharia law.
Radical Hinduism has increased in recent years, and extremist groups such as the Nepal Defence Army, which aims to make Nepal a Hindu nation again, view the growth of the church as a threat. Violent attacks are rare, but Hindus who convert to Christianity are pressurised to recant their faith and face social ostracism and occasional discrimination and hostility.
AFGHANISTAN IRAN BAHRAIN QATAR
Focus on India
UAE SAUDI OMAN ARABIA
Population: 1.3 billion Majority Religion: Hinduism (74%) Christian population: 71 million Persecution Category: Significant
Christians enjoy freedom in much of India, but in some areas they face persecution. Religious intolerance has grown with the rise of Hindutva (Hindu CAMBODIA nationalism). Its followers use the slogan “One Nation, One Religion, One VIETNAM SOMALIA Culture”, and consider Christians and Muslims to be followers of foreign religions. SRI LANKA MALDIVES Hindutva violence against Christians includes burning church buildings, INDONESIA MALAYSIA destroying property and violent attacks that leave Christians seriously injured or dead. Typically, intruders break up church services, beat the worshippers and call the police to arrest the Christians on false charges of “forcible conversion”. The police rarely arrest the attackers.
Bay of Bengal
“Anti-conversion laws” are often used as an excuse to raid church services and harass Christians. The laws forbid conversion by “force, fraud or allurement” and have been implemented in five states leading to increased violence against Christians and are not used to stop extremist attempts to coerce Christians to become Hindus. Hindus who convert to Christianity face persecution, especially those from low castes. There has been huge growth in Christianity amongst the Dalits (formerly known as “Untouchables”) at the bottom of the caste system and other low castes – nearly 80% of Indian Christians are from Dalit or tribal backgrounds. Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh Dalits qualify for the government’s affirmative action policies to help the most disadvantaged groups, but Christian and Muslim Dalits are excluded. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, elected in • BURNT CHURCH May 2014, is from a low caste. He leads the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. Attacked by militants Photo: GCIC The worst anti-Christian violence occurred in Orissa state (now Odisha) in 2007 and 2008, when armed Hindu militants killed over 135 Christians, burned hundreds of churches and thousands of homes and left over 55,000 Christians homeless.
Church in Chains in Action
Church in Chains supports the campaign of justice for Christian Dalits. It has channelled aid, via its partners, to Christian victims of militant attacks in Orissa and Karnataka.
Focus on Pakistan
Peshawar IslamabadL A Kashmir
Population: 185 million Majority Religion: Islam (96%) Christian population: 4.5 million Persecution Category: Severe When the Islamic Republic of Pakistan was founded in 1947, religious freedom was protected, but a policy of Islamisation has led to discrimination against religious minorities. Sharia law has been increasingly applied, even to Christians and Hindus, especially in parts of the northwest controlled by Islamists.
Most Christians are poor, with little education, and have menial jobs cleaning and sweeping streets. In recent years they have suffered several Islamist attacks on churches, schools and hospitals, while Christians in the North West Frontier Province have been ordered to leave the area, convert to Islam or face death. Another serious problem for Christians is that hundreds of girls and women are kidnapped every year and forced to convert to Islam and marry their abductors. The deadliest attack on Christians was the bombing of All Saints Church, Peshawar, in September 2013, killing over 100 people. In March 2013, a 3,000-strong mob destroyed â€˘ COFFINS OF VICTIMS 200 homes in a Christian colony in Lahore, over a false allegation of blasphemy. Attacked at church Pakistanâ€™s blasphemy laws cover offences such as defiling the Quran (life imprisonment) and Photo: Fayaz Aziz defaming the prophet Mohammed (death penalty). They are often misused to settle personal scores. Mullahs often incite local Muslims against alleged blasphemers. No one has been executed for blasphemy by the government, but extremists have murdered over 50 on release (15 of them Christians). Innocent people spend years in prison awaiting trial, their families forced into hiding, and some have to emigrate once acquitted. In 2011, Governor of Punjab Salman Taseer and Federal Minister of Minorities Shabhaz Bhatti were assassinated for their opposition to the blasphemy laws and their support for Asia Bibi, a Christian sentenced to death under the laws.
Church in Chains in Action
Church in Chains has engaged in an ongoing dialogue with the Pakistani Embassy in Dublin on religious freedom issues, especially about victims of the blasphemy laws. Church in Chains has, in association with partners, helped to furnish a refuge for Christian women who have been threatened, assaulted and raped.
East Asia The economies of East Asia have been growing rapidly over the past twenty years. China has led the way and is on course to become the world’s largest economy, while Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam have become manufacturing powerhouses. This startling economic growth has caused US President Barack Obama to announce a “pivot to Asia” in American foreign policy, by which America will devote more attention to the region. Most international focus is on economics and business, although China’s growing military power has become an issue in the wake of its involvement in a number of territorial disputes in the East China Sea and the South China Sea. The region is politically diverse: communist governments of various types in China, Vietnam, Laos and North Korea; large democracies in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines; Burma, which is transitioning to democracy after a long period of military rule; and two kingdoms, Bhutan and Brunei.
RUSSIA KAZAKHSTAN UZBEKISTAN
TURKMENISTAN TAJIK. IRAN
BAHRAIN QATAR UAE SAUDI OMAN ARABIA
HONG KONG MACAU
CAMBODIA SRI LANKA
PAPUA NEW GUINEA
The region is also religiously diverse, though most countries have a single majority religion – Buddhism, Islam or Confucianism. Christianity has been present in the region for centuries (through the efforts of Roman Catholic and Protestant missionaries). The map shows that the predominant persecution category is significant, reflecting the fact that while freedom for Christians to worship is generally permitted in the region, there are many restrictions and prohibitions placed on other Christian activities, and some local opposition. China’s decision finally to close its labour camps (where prisoners were “re-educated” for up to four years) has been seen as a significant advance for human rights, though some observers have reported that some of the facilities have been merely rebranded as rehabilitation centres and extra prisons. In the island nations of south east Asia, Christians are facing growing hostility. This is shown in Malaysia by the decision to reserve the word “Allah” (God) for use by Muslims only; in Indonesia by the increasing number of churches being attacked and closed down; and in Brunei by the introduction of Sharia law punishments.
Population: 750,000 Majority Religion: Buddhist (75%) Christian population: 15,000 Persecution Category: Significant
Population: 56 million Majority Religion: Buddhism (80%) Christian Population: 4.5m Persecution Category: Significant
The Kingdom of Bhutan is famous for its Buddhist culture, Himalayan scenery and Gross National Happiness index. In 2008 its first constitution was approved, granting freedom of thought, conscience and religion. However, while Hindu temples began to be built, Christians were denied the right to build churches, and while Buddhists and Hindus can register as legal entities, Christians cannot. The government says Christians are free to worship in private â€“ most meet in homes or private halls â€“ but meetings are monitored and worshippers face harassment and disruption.
A former British colony, Burma was taken over by a military junta in 1962. It imposed harsh military rule, brutally oppressing ethnic and religious minorities, and changed the name of the country to Myanmar. A transition to democracy began with elections in 2010 followed by the release of opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and over 600 political prisoners.
Converts from Buddhism to Christianity face discrimination from the government and local authorities and pressure to return to Buddhism. Evangelism is banned, and false charges of forced conversion have been made against Christians. In March 2014, two pastors were arrested and detained for 49 days on charges of proselytism. In May 2013, a Christian was released from prison after three years for showing the Jesus film.
The overall situation for Christians has not improved as they continue to face persecution from the authorities who disrupt gatherings, restrict publication of Christian literature and prevent construction or repair of church buildings. The Chin, Karen and Kachin minorities (which include large numbers of Christians) suffer persecution for their ethnicity and their faith. Christians also face persecution from Buddhist extremists who claim that to be Burmese is to be Buddhist. They also attack Muslims, especially in Rohingya state. In 2014, the government proposed an anti-conversion law under which a person would require official permission to convert.
Population: 30 million Majority Religion: Islam (63%) Christian population: 2.6 million Persecution Category: Limited
Population: 420,000 Majority Religion: Islam (65%) Christian population: 46,000 Persecution Category: Significant
Malaysia has always prided itself as a model nation of tolerance and multi-culturalism, the Malay majority peacefully co-existing with sizeable Chinese and Indian minorities. Sunni Islam is the official religion; Ahmadis and Shias are denied legal recognition. Most Christians are ethnic Chinese and have freedom to worship. It is illegal to evangelise Malays (all of whom are deemed to be Muslim), and Malays may not convert to another religion.
The small nation of Brunei is made up of two enclaves on the island of Borneo, surrounded by Malaysia. Brunei is ruled by the wealthy Sultan, a devout Muslim who views himself as the defender of Islam. About twothirds of the people of Brunei are ethnic Malays; most Christians are ethnic Chinese or Filipino. Churches exist under very difficult conditions. Evangelism is illegal, and although the number of Christians has grown, no new registrations for churches have been allowed (there are three Anglican churches and three Roman Catholic churches). Importing Bibles and Christian literature is limited to personal use.
In recent years, a number of high-profile court cases have dealt with the use of the word â€œAllahâ€? (God) in the Malay language, which Muslim groups have sought to reserve for Islam alone. Christians fear that some court rulings will subject religious freedom to the dictates of Muslim leaders. The issue has caused racial and religious divisions and churches have been attacked by mobs during periods of high tension. The Malaysian Bible Society has been raided by police who confiscated over 300 Bibles.
In 2014, Brunei became the first country in East Asia to begin to introduce Sharia law punishments, with the aim of full implementation in 2015, when punishments will include stoning to death and amputation of limbs. Christians who share their faith could face a jail sentence of five years.
Population: 250 million Majority Religion: Islam (86%) Christian population: 37 million Persecution Category: Significant
Population: 97 million Majority Religion: Christianity (92%) Persecution Category: Significant (Mindanao)
Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim nation, ranging over 6,000 inhabited islands. It has a long tradition of pluralism and inter-religious harmony. The spread of extremist Muslim ideology has led to rising intolerance against religious minorities (who include Ahmadis, Buddhists, Hindus, Confucians and Baha’is as well as Christians) and also atheists. A recent study cited 274 cases of religious intolerance in one year. Local and national government has been inactive, and sometimes complicit, in the gradual erosion of rights.
The Philippines is predominantly Christian and there is religious freedom in most of the country. The Roman Catholic Church is the largest church and has a strong influence. However, Christians face significant persecution in the southern part of Mindanao, the second-largest island in the country. Mindanao has been the traditional homeland of Muslim Filipinos since the 15th century.
There has been huge growth in the number of evangelicals over the past 50 years, from 1.3 million to 13 million. New Christians from a Muslim background often face rejection and persecution. One of the major problems facing Christians is the continued forcible closure of churches – hundreds have been closed in recent years by the enforcement of discriminatory government regulations. In some areas, especially in West Java province, churches have been attacked and set on fire by Muslim extremists.
Mindanao has endured armed conflict for the past 40 years as Muslim rebel groups have fought for independence. Over 120,000 people have been killed and there have been many rebel attacks on Christian targets including churches, pastors, house church meetings and Christian villages. Christian converts from Islam have been targeted and killed by rebel groups. In 2014, the government of the Philippines signed a peace deal with the main rebel group, designed to lead to autonomous government for the region. The sizeable Christian community in Mindanao fears that the agreement could lead to the enforcement of Sharia law.
Population: 6.4 million Majority Religion: Buddhism (57%) Christian population: 180,000 Persecution Category: Significant
Population: 90 million Majority Religion: Buddhism (52%) Christian population: 9 million Persecution Category: Severe
Laos is one of the few remaining Communist states in the world and is one of the world’s poorest countries. Over 90% of the country is mountainous with only 5% of the land suitable for agriculture. The main crop is rice, which is grown on the fertile floodplain of the Mekong River.
The Socialist Republic of Vietnam was a French colony until 1954. In 1975, after the Vietnam war, the north and south were united in a communist state that strictly controls political and religious expression. It is difficult to obtain registration for churches and those that succeed are tightly restricted. Unregistered churches suffer harassment and the religion police sometimes break up meetings and detain leaders.
There is a widespread view that Buddhism must have precedence in society and religious minorities, including Catholics, Protestants, Muslims and Baha’is, do not have full freedom. Improvements in religious freedom have been noted in the capital, Vientiane, but have not extended to rural areas where persecution of Christians, in particular, can be intense. Conversion to Christianity is strongly opposed by village leaders who exert great pressure on new Christians to recant their faith. Persecution of Christians includes forced eviction, arrest and detention, disruption of religious meetings and services, blocking of access to education, withdrawal of electricity supply and other utilities, and threats, including death threats.
In recent decades hundreds of thousands of tribal people in the north and central highlands (especially the Hmong and Montagnard) have become Christians. They meet in unregistered house churches and suffer double persecution: for their faith (officials see Christianity as a Western threat and fear its spread); and for their ethnicity (the authorities fear tribal separatist movements). They face discrimination, property destruction and detention – hundreds of tribal Christians are in prison, where (like political prisoners) they suffer beatings, abuse, starvation and torture. Several have died under torture.
Focus on China
Beijing NORTH KOREA
VIETNAM LAOS THAILAND
HONG KONG MACAU PHILIPPINES
Population: 1.35 billion Majority Religion: Non-Religious (44%) Christian population: 100 million (estimated) Persecution Category: Significant The People’s Republic of China is the world’s most populous country. The enormous economic transformation of the past 30 years that lifted tens of millions of people out of poverty has not been matched by political reform. The Chinese Communist Party has retained its monopoly on power and maintains strict control over the people, cracking down on any signs of opposition.
Government control over religion can be seen in the decades-long struggle in Tibet over the leadership of the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader who is campaigning for autonomy within China; the long-running dispute with the Vatican over the appointment of Roman Catholic bishops; and in the brutal ongoing crackdown on the Falun Gong movement. There are five officially recognised religious faiths in China which are regulated and strictly controlled. They are Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Protestant Christianity (the Three-Self Patriotic Movement or TSPM) and Catholicism (the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association or CCPA).
• CHURCH DEMOLISHED There are at least 100 million Christians in China, but it is impossible to estimate accurately. The By government order TSPM has about 20 million members, while Protestant house churches, which are officially illegal, Photo: The Telegraph may have 70 million members. Most are able to meet in relative freedom without interference but, in some areas, Christians from house churches continue to suffer harassment, heavy fines, arrest and torture. However, some TSPM churches are also targeted in government crackdowns, prompted by concerns about size or prominence of church buildings. The CCPA has about 6 million members and it is estimated that there are about 12 million “underground” Roman Catholics. Church in Chains in Action
Church in Chains has campaigned on behalf of the right of house churches to meet freely and in support of Christian prisoners. It has also supported the provision of Bibles and Christian literature for use by house churches.
Focus on North Korea
NORTH KOREA Pyongyang
Sea of Japan
Population: 23 million Majority Religion: Juche (official state ideology) Christian population: Up to 200,000 (estimated) Persecution Category: Severe
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is often described as the “Hermit Kingdom” because of its isolation from the rest of the world. Its 23 million people JAPAN live under a brutally repressive regime. About 40% of the population lives below the UN absolute poverty level, and the country is regularly in need of food aid. The head of state is Kim Jong-un, known as the Supreme Leader. He was aged 28 when he succeeded his father Kim Jong-il (known as the Dear Leader), who died in December 2011. Kim Jong-il succeeded his father Kim il-Sung (known as the Great Leader), who died in 1994 but remains the “eternal president”. SOUTH KOREA
The official state ideology is Juche, a pseudo-religious ideology which is so all-embracing that the majority of North Korean people have never heard the name of Jesus and instead venerate the Kims, whose portraits hang on the walls of every public building and home. Persecution of Christians dates back to the Korean War in the 1950s when most Christians fled to South Korea or were imprisoned or martyred, and churches were bulldozed or converted for secular use. Christians meet secretly in homes, usually in small groups of three or four family members, taking precautions such as shading windows and whispering hymns. If discovered, they are sent to labour camp or executed, and their families are punished also.
• WORSHIPPING THE KIMS
In 2014, a UN Commission of Inquiry found that “the gravity, scale and nature” of the violations Statues in Pyongyang Photo: J A de Roo of human rights “reveal a State that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world”. It stated that there were between 80,000 and 120,000 political prisoners (including Christians) and found that severe punishments are inflicted on “people caught practising Christianity”.
Church in Chains in Action
Church in Chains has, in association with partners, provided food, clothing and shelter to desperate North Korean refugees who have fled to neighbouring countries. It has also supported a project to deliver MP3 (audio) players, pre-loaded with the Bible and other Christian material, into North Korea.
What You Can Do The Global Guide highlights the situation of persecuted Christians worldwide. If you would like to support them, there are a number of opportunities to READ, PRAY, ACT and GIVE. To find out more, please tick the relevant boxes and return this form to the address below or email email@example.com.
READ – Please send me your quarterly magazine
PRAY – Please send me your weekly email My email address is:
ACT – Please send me your Letter-Writing Guide (for writing to ambassadors etc.) GIVE – Please send me details about regular giving to support Church in Chains NAME _______________________________________________________ ADDRESS ____________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________ Church in Chains, PO Box 10447, Glenageary, Co. Dublin, IRELAND
What You Can Do/What Church in Chains Does
What Church In Chains Does Church in Chains is an independent Irish charity (CHY 15443) that encourages Irish Christians to pray and act in support of persecuted Christians worldwide. Church in Chains publishes the latest news in a quarterly magazine, a weekly email news update, on Facebook and on its website (www. churchinchains.ie). Church in Chains supports a network of prayer groups around Ireland and also encourages advocacy (by means of letters, petitions, vigils, meetings with Ambassadors etc.) on behalf of persecuted Christians. Church in Chains channels aid to families of prisoners and to Christians in poor circumstances who are disadvantaged because of their faith. Church in Chains also provides Bibles and Christian literature to countries where they cannot otherwise be obtained. Church in Chains is a member of Aontas, Evangelical Alliance Ireland and the Wheel. Church in Chains is also a member of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade NGO Standing Committee on Human Rights.
Religious Freedom Principles
This Guide has been compiled with reference to a large number of sources; the most extensively used are listed below. We also thank many country experts (who wish to remain anonymous) for their assistance.
The persecution of Christians described in this Guide is a violation of internationally-recognised human rights principles and law.
AsiaLink Asia News Assyrian International News Agency Barnabas Fund BBC News/Country Profiles Christian Post Christian Solidarity Worldwide Forum 18 News Service International Christian Concern Irish Times Middle East Concern Mission Network News Morning Star News Open Doors World Watch List Operation World Release International Voice of the Martyrs Canada Wazala
The foundational human rights document – adopted by the United Nations in 1948 – is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 18 of the Universal Declaration states: “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.” In 2013, the European Union adopted Guidelines on Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) to govern its relations with countries outside the EU. The Guidelines state: “The right to freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) is a fundamental right of every human being. As a universal human right, freedom of religion or belief safeguards respect for diversity. Its free exercise directly contributes to democracy, development, rule of law, peace and stability. Violations of freedom of religion or belief may exacerbate intolerance and often constitute early indicators of potential violence and conflicts.”
Glossary & Sources
The Church in Chains Global Guide lists 60 countries where Christians face persecution because of their faith. The Global Guide divides the 60 countries into three colour coded categories â€“ severe (many or all Christians face persecution including imprisonment, torture, murder or violent mob attacks), significant (some, but not all, Christians face arrest, attack or serious restrictions) and limited (some churches or individuals face restriction or discrimination). Church in Chains is an independent Irish charity that encourages prayer and action in support of persecuted Christians, with a special focus on China, Egypt, Eritrea, India, Iran, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Turkey and Uzbekistan.
CHURCH IN CHAINS PO Box 10447, Glenageary, Co. Dublin, IRELAND. T 01-282 5393 E firstname.lastname@example.org W www.churchinchains.ie