Aid to the Church in Need-USA, a Catholic charity I chair that supports and cares for persecuted Christians, recently commissioned McLaughlin and Associates to conduct a poll examining the views of the U.S. Catholics on global Christian suffering.
The survey aimed to measure:
- The extent to which American Catholics are aware of Christian persecution around the world;
- The countries and regions where they consider Christians most severely persecuted;
- Specific measures and policies they want the U.S. and other Western governments to pursue;
- The extent to which they feel that the Pope, their bishops, and their parishes are making the issue of Christian persecution a priority;
- Actions they believe they can and should take themselves.
As for the religious profile of the 1,000 U.S. Catholics polled, 35 percent said they attend Mass on a weekly basis; 18 percent on a monthly basis; 18 percent attend Mass only at Christmas and Easter; and 29 percent rarely go to church.
In terms of their religious beliefs, 34 percent identified themselves as conservative; 27 percent liberal; and 39 percent as moderate.
The poll’s findings, in my judgment, are both surprising and unsettling.
Overall, the survey shows that the issue of anti-Christian persecution is a complex and challenging one in terms of engaging the public, policy-makers, and Church leadership; significantly, the majority of American Catholics look to the U.S. government to help save and protect persecuted Christians around the world through diplomatic pressure (60 percent) and economic sanctions targeting offending countries.
The Catholic public is aware of the issue: 40 percent of U.S. Catholics believe that Christian persecution around the world is “severe.” Four-in-ten Catholics say that half or more of religiously-based attacks around the world are directed at Christians. Nevertheless, U.S. Catholics say they are less concerned about anti-Christian persecution than about human trafficking, poverty, climate change, and the global refugee crisis.
At first glance this appears to be an anomaly. Still, while other global issues resonate more with American Catholics, they remain concerned about the issue of anti-Christian persecution. The answer, at least in part, appears to lie in the fact that 33 percent of American Catholics don’t trust or rely on the Catholic media, while about 1-in-5 U.S. Catholics don’t trust major secular media.
In addition, a significant number of U.S. Catholics is unsure about the level of engagement of their local bishops and parishes when it comes to the issue of global Christian persecution.
The survey shows clearly that American Catholics would benefit from more and better coverage of anti-Christian persecution by the media; and that we need a stronger voice from the Church on the issue on both the leadership and grassroots level.
Frankly, after reviewing the poll’s findings, I realized Pope Francis got it right in early 2017 when he lamented that the topic of Christian persecution has not been newsworthy and chastised the media and the public in the West for their complacence.
There are no easy solutions. But the objective of Aid to the Church in Need is clear: we will underscore the urgency of paying attention to gross violations around the world of religious freedom and human rights. We will focus the spotlight on the importance of guaranteeing protection of religious expression and living the Christian faith in complete freedom in hostile environments abroad. We will remind the West that religious freedom, as enshrined by the Universal Declaration of Human rights, is a fundamental human right and must be protected in all circumstances and by all the means at the disposal of democratic governments.
Armed with these survey findings, ACNUSA aims to touch the consciousness of people across the country; ordinary citizens as well as media notables. To ensure global anti-Christian persecutions stay front and center in the news and public discourse, ACNUSA will call on government and Church leaders to make the issue a priority.
And we will urge all people of goodwill to champion the cause to restore the God-given rights to every person suffering for professing their faith.
Here is the link to the poll.
George J. Marlin, a former executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is the author of "The American Catholic Voter: Two Hundred Years of Political Impact," and "Christian Persecutions in the Middle East: A 21st Century Tragedy." He is chairman of Aid to the Church in Need-USA. Mr. Marlin also writes for TheCatholicThing.org and the Long Island Business News. To read more George J. Marlin — Click Here Now.
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