(Photo: AP Photo / Muhammed Muheisen)
Seventy five percent of religious persecution in the world is against Christians, claims a new report by a U.K. Catholic organization.
Examining 33 countries, the British branch of Aid to the Church in Need reported that most of the persecution was occurring in the Middle East, Africa and Asia in its 2011 "Persecuted and Forgotten? A Report on Christians oppressed for their faith."
Besides the usual suspects – China, Iran, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia – the report also reveals that countries such as Venezuela, Zimbabwe and even the Holy Land are guilty of religious persecution. The report also finds that Christians face increased persecution in 22 countries among those examined, with Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, and Pakistan being among the worst countries for believers to live in. The report also says that now 100 million Christians worldwide are facing persecution.
"The proportion of countries with a worsening track-record of anti-Christian violence and intimidation would be higher were it not for the fact that in many cases the situation could scarcely have been worse in the first place," the report stated.
Besides the persecution from Islamic extremists, the report also highlights that Christians are harassed by rising nationalism in countries such as Burma, India, and Sri Lanka. There is also the rising threat of Islamic extremism in North Africa and parts of Asia. Meanwhile, some communist and atheist countries are suppressing the religious rights of minorities.
"Extremists increasingly link local Christians in their countries to the West," explained John Pontifex, spokesman for Aid to the Church in Need. "As they are in most cases unable to attack Western countries direct, many extremists turn their fire on local Christians."
This week, Ann Widdecombe, a well-known British politician, was named as a special envoy on religious freedom for the charity Aid to the Church in Need.
Widdecombe, a Catholic, said on Thursday that she is "increasingly alarmed" by reports of violence and intimidation against Christians. She also highlighted the inconsistency of the British government's effort to protect the rights of religious minorities domestically and its tendency to turn a blind eye to persecution of Christians overseas.
"It is time to put our heads above the parapet and speak up in the name of Christians suffering for their faith," she said. "I am delighted to support the work of Aid to the Church in Need, which is doing excellent work to help persecuted Christians."
U.K. Cardinal Keith O'Brien of Edinburgh recently described persecution of Christians as "perhaps the biggest human rights scandal of our generation."