Christians “Most Persecuted” Religious Group in World, New Book Asserts
Leading scholars take up issue of freedom of religion at Hudson Institute panel (Posted April 18, 2013)
BY MARK A. KELLNER, news editor, reporting from Washington, D.C.
The global crisis of religious persecution of Christians is expanding, three experts in the field said March 27, 2013, as they presented their contention that Christians are the most widely persecuted religious group in the world today.
Scholars Nina Shea, Paul Marshall, and Lela Gilbert, of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, noted a diverse range of institutions and media outlets, including groups such as Open Doors, the Pew Research Center, and periodicals such as Commentary, Newsweek, and The Economist, have concurred in that assertion.
The book chronicles this persecution, analyzes patterns of repression, abuse, and violence, and explores the reasons that specific ideological, religious, and political groups, as well as governments, target Christian believers as enemies. The three spoke at a panel discussion organized by the group, with noted author Eric Metaxas, who wrote the book’s foreword, as moderator.
Instances of persecution include the continuing detention of American pastor Saeed Abedini, who was imprisoned in Iran in September 2012 for his religious beliefs.
United States secretary of state John F. Kerry, on the evening of March 22, 2013, issued a statement that said, in part, “I am deeply concerned about the fate of U.S citizen Saeed Abedini, who has been detained for nearly six months and was sentenced to eight years in prison in Iran on charges related to his religious beliefs.” Kerry called for Abedini’s release, as has the International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA), which is affiliated with the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
“Arresting someone because he changes his religion should not be accepted by those who believe in human dignity,” IRLA secretary general John Graz said.
Other examples of persecution are detailed in the three Hudson scholars’ new book, Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians (Thomas Nelson, March 2013): A woman is caught with a Bible and publicly shot to death. An elderly priest is abducted and never seen again. Roadside bombs strike three buses, each filled with Christian students and teachers. All these attacks, the authors contend, are part of the “global assault” on Christian believers.
Nina Shea, speaking to the noontime audience, noted the 2010 move by Afghanistan to close the last remaining Christian church in the nation. Diplomats and other expatriates in Kabul “had to hide their worship,” she said, and “the Obama administration said nothing and did nothing” to oppose the move.
Earlier, in Iraq, Shea noted, the Bush administration was silent when Christians in that country “were driven out.” Shea said then-secretary of state Condoleeza Rice demurred when asked to address the issue, claiming the U.S. could not “be involved in sectarian affairs.”
Persecution, however, is not limited to global hot spots, the authors contended. Paul Marshall noted that “North Korea is probably the worst place in the world to be a Christian,” adding that all of the estimated 200,000 Christians in that nation are persecuted by the Communist regime. Shea noted that Christians in North Korea “have been shot or summarily executed for having a Bible. Families, to the third generation, have been placed in prison camps just for being Christians.”
Part of the solution, scholar Lela Gilbert said, is for those committed to religious freedom to keep the issue prominent.
“We can all make some noise,” Gilbert said. “We can keep [the issue] in front of people.”