ROME, November 30, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The 2010 “Report on Religious Freedom in the World” by the Catholic organization Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) states that Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world, with at least 200 million people suffering from discrimination.
The report notes that in 21 of the 194 countries studied, there is almost no religious freedom, and that worldwide, out of every ten people, seven cannot live their faith in full freedom.
Two types of religious persecution – one by state policy and one by members of other religions – are identified.
Peter Sefton Williams, Chairman of Aid to the Church in Need, commented that the report identifies government-sanctioned persecution in many parts of the world, but particularly in Asia.
“Political oppression and discrimination, come from countries like China, from Cuba, from North Korea, and from countries like Vietnam,” Williams said in a RomeReports video.
Noting that persecution that comes from other religions is particularly acute in some countries with a Muslim majority, Williams pointed to “places like Saudi Arabia where it’s impossible for any Christian or indeed any other group, non-Muslim group, to organize and to have open public prayer. We think of places like Somalia, or we think of Sudan.”
Marie-Claude Lalonde, National Director of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) Canada, recalled the massacre of Syrian Catholic Christians in Baghdad on October 31, calling it “a reality that is sadly growing all over the world: religious freedom is more and more threatened.”
“While terrorists blasted through the group of faithful gathered for mass, witnesses of the attack reported a child, three years of age, crying out: ‘Enough, enough!’ He was shot at point blank range by the assailants, just as were 44 other people and two priests,” Lalonde said.
“This child’s cry recalls the essentiality and necessity of continuing to speak in the name of all those who, every day, all over the planet, are persecuted because of their religious beliefs,” Lalonde remarked, adding, “Unfortunately, the overall picture has not improved very much. If some local conflicts have ended since the publication of the last report in 2008, like in Burundi, we can observe little or no improvement in Cuba, Iran, Israel, nor in Pakistan.”
“What happened about a month ago in Iraq recalls that religious fundamentalism is still powerful,” Lalonde said.
In Pakistan, the use of the blasphemy law against religious minorities, especially against Christians, was denounced by Msgr. Joseph Coutts, the vice president of the Catholic Episcopal Conference of Pakistan.
Noting the worsening situation of Christians in his country, he particularly criticized the blasphemy law, which invokes punishments as severe as the death penalty to anyone who speaks out against the Koran or the Prophet Muhammad.
Although the Pakistani government has not so far executed anyone for blasphemy, some defendants have been killed by radicals acting on their own initiative.
“We want to have our equality and all our rights as equal citizens of Pakistan. We are not against our country, we want to stay in the country. We are not leaving the country,” Msgr. Coutts said in the RomeReports video.
A case in point is that of Asia Bibi, a 45-year-old Christian woman from a village outside Lahore, who was sentenced to death after being found guilty by a Punjab court of insulting the Prophet Mohammed.
Auxiliary Bishop Sebastian Shaw of Lahore wrote a letter in her defense which he presented personally at the Vatican.
In response, Pope Benedict XVI made a public statement appealing on Asia’s behalf.
The verdict is expected to be appealed to Pakistan’s High Court. Bishop Shaw told Aid to the Church in Need in an interview November 29 that he was hopeful of success.
“Some High Court lawyers have said they have already studied the case and believe that the charges against her are not proven. The right way to proceed is for Christian lawyers and human rights activists to work together on an appeal case. Through these means we will succeed,” Bishop Shaw said.
The ACN report also reveals that religious freedom has declined in the United States and Europe by the radicalization of secularism.
Spain is cited for its prohibition of religious symbols in public places, while France and Germany are mentioned for discrimination against Islamic communities and hostility toward the Catholic Church because of their position on family issues and defense of life.
For more information on the activities of Aid to the Church in Need, visit their website here. (https://www.churchinneed.org/site/PageServer?pagename=mainpage)
The 2010 Report on Religious Freedom in the World will be available worldwide in six languages on CD-Rom. In Canada it will be available in French and English and may be ordered by phone or email.
Aid to the Church in Need Canada
Phone: 514-932-0552, 1-800-585-6333
Email: [email protected]