Pope Appeals to Gov'ts on Behalf of Persecuted Christians

Pope Benedict XVI made an appeal Monday, demanding that governments around the world protect Christians against violence and discrimination.

He was addressing not only Muslim majority countries, including Egypt, Iraq and Nigeria, but also Europe and the West where religion is being marginalized.

But most of the concerns he expressed surrounded the recent spate of attacks that have left dozens of Christians dead. Coptic Christians in Egypt were the latest victims of a New Year's Eve bombing. Just weeks before that, Nigeria's Christian population was targeted during Christmas. And the Christian minority in Iraq continues to suffer in the months following the church siege in October that left 58 people dead as bombs explode near homes and businesses.

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"This succession of attacks is yet another sign of the urgent need for the governments of the region to adopt, in spite of difficulties and dangers, effective measures for the protection of religious minorities," the pope said, according to The Associated Press.

Human rights group International Christian Concern released its annual Hall of Shame report last week, listing the worst persecutors of Christians in 2010. Iraq and Egypt were added to the list this year.

ICC president Jeff King lamented that the rate of Christian persecution has accelerated around the globe, especially in the Islamic world.

"Anti-Christian hatred arising from Islam has flowed into 2011, as seen in the horrific attacks in Egypt, Pakistan and Iraq already this year," he said. "Constant vigilance is needed in the struggle to defend the fundamental human right of religious freedom. Those of us fortunate to live in countries that grant religious freedom must not forget nor neglect the plight of Christians who are condemned by extremist ideology or government tyranny to suffer – or die – for their faith."

The ICC report noted that the persecution of Christians is rarely reported by mainstream media though it is a common occurrence.
But attacks against Christians in recent months have drawn the attention of the media and the world. This includes Pakistan's treatment of Christians. Thousands around the world are petitioning for the freedom of Christian mother Asia Bibi, the first woman to be sentenced to death for alleged blasphemy.

Pope Benedict, in his address Monday, also called on Pakistan to reverse its blasphemy laws.

In October, the pope is scheduled to hold an interfaith summit focusing on peace and ending religious violence. He has identified Christians as the religious group that suffers the most from persecution on account of its faith.

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