Christians are rapidly disappearing from the region of Jesus Christ’s birth – the modern Middle East – and are being persecuted in many other regions of the world where their religion is viewed as “Western” and foreign.
The new study, reported Sunday by the British Telegraph newspaper,warns that Christians suffer greater hostility across the world than any other religious group. It also claims politicians have been “blind” to the extent of violence faced by Christians in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
The most dangerous threat to the religion is militant Islam, the report by the think tank Civitas says, because oppression in Muslim countries is often ignored because of a fear that criticism will be seen as “racism”.
Converts from Islam face being killed in Saudi Arabia, Mauritania and Iran and risk severe legal penalties in other countries across the Middle East, the report says: “It is generally accepted that many faith-based groups face discrimination or persecution to some degree.
“A far less widely grasped fact is that Christians are targeted more than any other body of believers,” the study adds.
The study also estimates that 200 million Christians, or 10 per cent of Christians worldwide, are “socially disadvantaged, harassed or actively oppressed for their beliefs.”
“Exposing and combating the problem ought in my view to be political priorities across large areas of the world. That this is not the case tells us much about a questionable hierarchy of victimhood,” the author, Rupert Shortt, a journalist and visiting fellow of Blackfriars Hall, Oxford, tells the Telegraph.
He adds: “The blind spot displayed by governments and other influential players is causing them to squander a broader opportunity. Religious freedom is the canary in the mine for human rights generally.”
The report, entitled Christianophobia, highlights a fear among oppressive regimes that Christianity is a “Western creed” which can be used to undermine them.