The Catholic organization Aid to the Church in Need released a religious freedom report on November 30th. The report says that seven of ten people are unable to freely live out their faith without some form of state or personal opposition that seeks to make their expression of religion difficult or nearly impossible, at least in public. I am not sure what figures and means were used to determine this percentage but I have to believe the reality of this problem is much greater than almost anyone in the West knows or understands. And I do believe no other religious profession is as widely persecuted as the faith of Christian believers the world over.
Americans, in particular, take the freedom of religious expression for granted. We should be vigilant to protect this hard won freedom and we do all that we can to properly extend it to others wherever possible. This freedom is always tenuous and when virtue goes freedom is often not far behind, which should concern those of us who live in the modern West.
The same report says that Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world with at least 200 million Christians suffering from various forms of discrimination. The greatest “hot spots” are in the Middle East and various parts of the former Soviet Union, as well as some Asian countries where Islam is particularly powerful. It is important to note that this is not true in every Muslim context but the plight of Christians has grown even worse in many Muslim countries over the last decade.
An anonymous prelate from the Vatican’s Synod for the Middle East said in October that the position of Christians from the Middle East is precarious regarding both freedom and emigration. In part, he said, “Let’s stop saying there is no problems with Muslims; this isn’t true. The problem doesn’t only come from fundamentalists, but from constitutions. In all the countries of the region except Lebanon, Christians are second-class citizens.”