Christian persecution today

Christians in many countries encounter appalling persecution, with women and girls facing a double jeopardy of injustice. Neville Kyrke-Smith writes on what Aid to the Church in Need is doing to help.

­­­­­­­I stood in the tiny room speaking to the family of five for whom it was now their home. Randa and Sami, who had fled from Zabadani in Syria, told me how they were forced to abandon their home when more than 5,000 armed extremists on the Rebels’ side in the civil war took over their town. Christian houses were marked so that they could be easily identified by the jihadist fighters. The extremists went from house to house shouting: ‘Where are you Christians?’ The family told me how people were killed in their homes and others kidnapped.

Randa, Sami and their children used to have a ten-room house – now they are squeezed into a tiny one room flat with separate kitchenette and shower. Their lodging was provided by the Church in Zahlé in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, where they had fled for safety. The UN was not supporting Christian refugees so, like hundreds of others, the family turned to the local Melkite Church for help. Today, with backing from Aid to the Church in Need, this Eastern Catholic Church is providing hundreds of families in Zahlé with food and accommodation – because if they do not help them no one else will. Christians in Syria have suffered along with everyone else because of the civil war, but they have also been targeted by extremists among the rebel groups. People think the war is over, but many Christians are still suffering. When I spoke to Randa and Sami, they would like to have returned the few miles across the border to Zabadani, but everything had been destroyed – their home was razed to the ground. 

Christians around the world suffer immense persecution, as illustrated by the findings of the Pew Research Centre. Since they started carrying out studies into violations of religious freedom in 2007, every year they have found that Christians experience problems in more countries than any other religious group – and these problems range from verbal abuse to killings.1 Pew identifies two key drivers of persecution, what it calls ‘social hostilities’, which cover everything from neighbours denying access to wells right through to massacres by militant extremist groups, and government restrictions which for Christians often means the action of intolerant regimes, such as China and Eritrea.

Login for more...