THE PAPAL VISIT TO IRAQ put the spotlight on Christian persecution in the Middle East, as a new poll shows American Catholics expressing growing concern about Christian persecution around the world.
Fifty-seven percent of US Catholics believe that the persecution of Christians around the world is “very severe,” up from 41 percent a year ago; and 67 percent say they are “very concerned” about the issue.
Almost 50 percent of US Catholics believe that half or more of religiously based attacks around the world are directed at Christians; they identify China as the country where Christians are most severely persecuted, followed by North Korea and Pakistan.
The fourth annual nationwide poll examining the views of US Catholics on the global persecution of Christians was conducted in February 2021 by McLaughlin & Associates for Aid to the Church in Need-USA (ACNUSA). The survey aimed to measure:
- The extent to which American Catholics are aware of Christian persecution around the world.
- The countries and regions where they consider Christians most severely persecuted.
- Specific measures and policies they want the US and other Western governments to pursue.
- The extent to which they feel that the Pope, their bishops, and their parishes are making the issue of Christian persecution a priority.
- Actions they believe they can and should take themselves.
Yet, despite their awareness of Christian persecution around the world, US Catholics are not well informed of the horrific instances of persecution, such as in Pakistan, in 2020, where 1,000 primarily Christian under-age girls were abducted and threatened to be forcibly converted to Islam; in China, Mass-goers are subject to digital surveillance; in Nigeria, nearly 3,500 Christians were killed for their faith in 2020, and in North Korea, being a Christian can carry the death penalty.
The survey reveals that fifty-two percent of US Catholics say that Pope Francis is “very engaged” on the issue of the persecution of Christians—up from 47 percent a year ago; 30 percent think their local bishop is “very engaged” and 28 percent believe their parish is very involved with the issue.
“It is heartening that, compared to a year ago, significantly more US Catholics say that Christian persecution around the world is very grave and that the issue has become a matter of concern to more faithful. They also want both their Church and their government to step up efforts to do more to combat the issue,” said George Marlin, ACNUSA chairman.
Most importantly, “The poll shows the great need to inform the public regarding specific instances of Christian persecution; the US bishops and organizations like our own must step up our educational and informational efforts.”
He concluded: “It is my hope that leaders around the world embrace the fundamental human right of religious freedom, and promote a society that respects ethnic, cultural and especially religious diversity.”
Survey findings can be accessed here: www.churchinneed.org/survey2021/christianpersecution
With picture of ISIS graffiti on the wall of Virgin Mary kindergarten in Bashiqa, northern Iraq (© ACN)
Directly under the Holy Father, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity - helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.
Founded in 1947, the organization is now at work in over 145 countries throughout the world.
The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, over 40 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide.
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