It is a barometer which is traditionally unveiled at the beginning of each year, to give a “snapshot” of the situation of Christians across the planet. On Tuesday January 17, the evangelical NGO Portes Ouvertes published its “Global Index of the Persecution of Christians in the World”. Member of the Protestant Federation of France (FPF), the association draws up an alarming observation there, establishing at “more than 360 million” the number of faithful victims of abuse between October 1, 2021 and September 30, 2022.
“This means that one in seven Christians in the world is seriously exposed to discrimination because of their faith. Among them, one in five lives in Africa, two out of five in Asia and one in fifteen in Latin America”, lamented at a press conference Patrick Victor, France-Belgium director of the NGO, before insisting on the figure of “5,621 Christians killed last year”, or “15 per day” on average.
Among other global data, the report counts “2,110 churches destroyed or targeted” (nearly half of them in China), “4,542 worshipers detained” (including 1,750 in India), and “5,259 others kidnapped”. (including 4,726 in Nigeria alone) over the period concerned.
How to understand these numbers? Developed since 1993, this “World Index” presents the 70 countries in which Christians of all denominations are most persecuted because of their religious beliefs. Methodologically, he distinguishes, by a system of points established thanks to data collected on the ground, actions known as “hammer” (beatings, assassinations, destruction of church…) and “clamp” (oppression and restrictions of believers in their private, family, social, civil, ecclesial life…). Militant, this analytical tool is nevertheless taken up by certain institutions and international media.
Why speak of a further decline in religious freedom, when these figures are still substantially similar, or even lower, than those of the previous year (1)? For Guillaume Guennec, in charge of advocacy within the association, it is the underlying trends that are growing in the wrong direction. “In 1993, Christians who faced ‘high’ or worse persecution were concentrated in 40 countries. In 2023, they are in 76 states”, he explained, citing among the aggravating factors “the rise of Islamic extremism in Africa”, but also the growth of authoritarian models and nationalism in several regions of the world.
Finally, the index draws up a ranking of the most failing states. Dethroned last year by Afghanistan, North Korea has regained the lead in this sad list – a place it had occupied for twenty years. Dismantling of house churches, places of worship shown to visitors “serving only for propaganda purposes”, arrests of Christians, introduction of a “new law on reactionary ideas”… “The cult of personality established around the family of dictator Kim Jong-un leaves no room for Christianity,” the 2023 report laments.
The country is respectively followed by Somalia, Yemen, Eritrea, Libya, Nigeria and Iran – shaken since September by waves of bloody repressed demonstrations. Notably, the Kabul regime recorded the largest drop in this blacklist, falling to ninth place. “It’s a sham decline”, however tempered Patrick Victor, while the Taliban returned to power in the summer of 2021 focused more on the execution of those who had links with the old regime. than on “the discovery and assassination of new converts, for whom the situation has not fundamentally changed”.
Behind Sudan – plagued by great instability since the military coup of October 2021 – India, governed since 2014 by the Hindu nationalist BJP of Narendra Modi, worries the association: “Eleven states have made pass anti-conversion laws, and a nationwide bill could be voted on by 2023,” she laments. Finally, the NGO deplores the continued exodus of Christians to the Middle East, in the wake of the wars in Iraq or Syria, as if “the Churches had not healed their wounds there”.
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