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Tags: persecution | christians | catholics

Survey Shows US Catholics' Growing Concern About Global Persecution of Christians

the pope and prime minister seated at an ornate table with flags behind them
Iraq's Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi, right, and Pope Francis during the Pope's recent visit to comfort one of the world's oldest and most persecuted Christian communities. (Photo by Ayman HENNA / AFP) (AFP via Getty Images)

George J. Marlin By Thursday, 01 April 2021 11:24 AM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

In early March, Pope Francis delivered a message of hope and encouragement to Iraq's Christian community.

He reminded the world that the ancient Iraqi Christian community has been decimated in the past two decades. The Christian population dropped from 1.3 million on the eve of the Iraq War to an estimated 250,000 faithful today.

With the rise of ISIS, the Middle East has been a dramatic, high-profile example of Christian persecution, which affects almost 340 million Christians around the world. One out of every eight faithful live in a country where they suffer some form of persecution, such as arbitrary arrest, violence, a full range of human rights violations and even murder.

Now a new survey shows American Catholics expressing growing concern about a situation that is worsening year after year. Fifty-seven percent of U.S. Catholics believe that the persecution of Christians around the world is "very severe," up from 41% a year ago; and 67% say they are "very concerned" about the issue.

Almost 50% of U.S. Catholics believe that half or more of religiously based attacks around the world are directed at Christians; they identify China as the country where Christians are most severely persecuted, followed by North Korea and Pakistan.

The fourth annual nationwide poll examining the views of U.S. Catholics on the global persecution of Christians was conducted in late February 2021 by McLaughlin & Associates on behalf of the organization I chair, Aid to the Church in Need-USA (ACNUSA). 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.

Despite the growing concern of U.S. Catholics about Christian persecution around the world, the majority are not well informed about certain horrific instances of persecution, such as in Pakistan, in 2020, where 1,000 primarily Christian underage girls were abducted and faced forced conversion to Islam; in China, where Mass-goers are subject to digital surveillance; in Nigeria, where nearly 3,500 Christians were killed for their faith in 2020, and in North Korea, where being a Christian can carry the death penalty.

Although the research shows that 67% are "very concerned" about the persecution of Christians — up from 52% a year ago — American Catholics worry more about human trafficking and poverty as global issues. That has been the case for four years in a row and it is significant.

American Catholics do look at their Church for leadership. The survey reveals that 52% of U.S. Catholics believe that Pope Francis is "very engaged" on the issue of the persecution of Christians — up from 47% a year ago; 30% think their local bishop is "very engaged" and 28% believe their parish is highly involved with the issue.

It is heartening that, compared to a year ago, significantly more U.S. Catholics think that Christian persecution around the world is very grave and that the issue has become a matter of concern to more faithful. They also want both their Church and their government to step up efforts to do more to combat the issue. However, the poll does show the great need to better inform the public regarding specific instances of Christian persecution; the U.S. bishops and organizations like our own must step up our educational and informational efforts.

It is my hope that awareness of Christian suffering will prompt leaders around the world to embrace and promote the fundamental human right of religious freedom, building societies that respect and protect ethnic, cultural and, especially religious diversity.

On his first day in Iraq, March 5th, the Pope called on Iraqi society to engage in a peace-building dialogue to protect human rights, including religious freedom for the country's embattled Christians. His words could have been spoken in any of the almost 150 countries where Christian freedoms are regularly trampled upon and where faithful face severe persecution: "It is essential to ensure the participation of all political, social and religious groups and to guarantee the fundamental rights of all citizens. May no one be considered a second-class citizen."

Survey findings can be accessed here:

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. Read George J. Marlin's Reports — More Here.

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Fifty-seven percent of U.S. Catholics believe that the persecution of Christians around the world is "very severe," up from 41% a year ago; and 67% say they are "very concerned" about the issue.
persecution, christians, catholics
Thursday, 01 April 2021 11:24 AM
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