The persecution of Christians worldwide is, unfortunately, an uncontested fact. Though this persecution very rarely occurs in the United States, citizens of other countries experience it daily. They live in constant fear for their lives, knowing that at any moment they could be harassed, arrested, raped, beaten, or murdered. Persecution is an issue many governments either refuse to address or completely ignore. But on July 24 to July 26, 2018, the State Department is hosting a ministerial, providing the perfect opportunity to address these horrendous occurrences and begin the process of enacting necessary change.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has decided to host a Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom conference in the nation’s capital, Washington, DC. Topics covered are extensive, but among them are the roles of government and lessons of civil society. There will also be side events that include a reception hosted by the Save the Persecuted Christians coalition (of which IRD is a founding member), an event describing the best practices in advancing international religious freedom, and discussion on the impact of war on religious freedoms. It will be the first occasion of its kind run by Pompeo, and it is promising that the first Ministerial of his tenure is on this critical issue.
It seems Pompeo, at the very least, realizes the extent of religious persecution that takes place worldwide. This is the first step in a long process. However, the Secretary of State should be sure to have a discourse surrounding the specific persecution of Christians. With “like-minded allies” in fellowship with one another and with the leadership of Sam Brownback, Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, this event creates the perfect environment to converse about the egregious crimes committed against the followers of Christ.
The fact that Christians are the most persecuted religion in the world is hardly disputable, making it a necessary topic at the ministerial. In 2013, Huffington Post reported this to be true. Washington Examiner claimed the same thing in 2017. Express made similar reports about a week ago.
Statistics, likewise, show that thousands are harmed throughout the year based on their religious affiliations. Every year, Open Door USA creates a world watch list, geographically displaying some of the places where the persecution of Christians is most rampant. Unsurprisingly, North Korea is at the top of the list and has been for the past 16 consecutive years. Kim Jong Un consistently deports Christians to labor camps, labels them political criminals, and kills both the supposed offender and his family. An illustration of this was on April 30, 2016, when Chiangbai Han Choong Yeol was murdered by four North Korean agents.
215 million Christians face persecution just because they claim to be followers of Jesus, according to this year’s world watch list. Among these statistics were the facts that “3,066 Christians were killed, 1,252 were abducted, 800 churches defaced, and 1,020 people raped.” 900,000 Christians have been killed between the years 2005 and 2015.
These numbers show that this problem is a pervasive one and it isn’t going to resolve itself. In fact, as the years go on, things have only gotten worse. A study conducted by Aid to the Church in Need examined Christians in places like Egypt, Sudan, Syria, and Turkey. The study noted that Sudan was the only place on the list where conditions for Christians did not worsen. That isn’t necessarily a glimmer of hope since people are still fearing for their lives in the region.
This persecution must end and that cannot happen if it’s never talked about. It deserves a national platform. The ministerial that will be hosted in July is the kind of arena where this issue can be faced, discussed, and hopefully begin a process of restoration for those who need it so badly.