WASHINGTON – The head of a California-based evangelical religious liberty group stated Thursday that Christianity is presently the most persecuted religion on earth based on evidence gathered.
Dr. Carl Moeller told The Christian Post at an event on rising religious intolerance abroad that Christians are "the most persecuted in the world" when the nonprofit examined religious groups suffering from increased persecution.
"In terms of sheer numbers, the large size of the Christian populations around the world, where they're repressed or restricted… Whether you count martyrs, those killed, or you count those living in regimes, sizable Christian populations live under extreme restrictions in places like China, Indonesia, and of course the Middle East," said Moeller.
He noted that "the methodology for determining this was not from Open Doors necessarily. It was through organizations like Pew Research."
Moeller cited in his remarks a 2011 Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life study that concluded that about 70 percent of the world's population lives in a religiously intolerant environment and 32 percent of the world's population experienced a rise in religious hostility either at the social or government level.
"Where we see it most notably is in Islamic societies where an intentional misrepresentation of other faiths is primary. It's fueled by illiteracy and some cases poverty," said Moeller.
"But the core driver is a distortion of a religious message that makes Christians or other minority groups the enemy."
Moeller's remarks came at a press conference focused on the increased persecution of religious minorities in the Middle East and North Africa. Sponsored by Opens Doors and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the conference was held on Thursday at the National Press Club.
In addition to Moeller, other speakers included Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, director of interfaith affairs for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and Nina Shea, a commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
"What we all have in common is that we are stakeholders in battling what we call a growing scourge of repression of religious freedom," said Adlerstein.
"It can easily be shown that religious freedom in minority populations has become a political tool of all kinds of regimes and one that will continue to wreak havoc with the lives, indeed the existence of entire communities in many parts of the world."
For his speech, Moeller spoke about the growing problems for Christians in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Nigeria. When talking about Nigeria, which is in the news regularly for bomb attacks by an extremist Islamic group called Boko Haram, Moeller held up photos of bombed churches and businesses taken over the past few months.
USCIRF Commissioner Shea talked about various issues regarding international religious liberty, focusing on several failures on the part of the Obama administration in addressing these issues.
Shea also mentioned a piece of legislation "languishing in the Senate" known as SB 1245, which was introduced by Republican Congressman Frank Wolf as HR 440. The bill if enacted would create a "Special Envoy" for the protection of religious minorities in the Middle East and South East Asia. It is currently being held up by Virginia Democratic Senator Jim Webb for unknown reasons.
"The U.S.'s moral muscle can be used to save millions of lives from oppression, imprisonment, and even death," said Moeller.
"And I believe that there are people of good will of faith of all religious persuasions around the world who would understand the kinds of things we were talking about here today."