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COFE CONDEMNS RISING CHRISTIAN PERSECUTION

Sahel and Nigeria emerging troublespots, Afghanistan and India ‘countries of concern’

One-in-seven now persecuted for their faith. Release International warns ‘world must wake up to rise in violence against Christians’.

The Church of England has condemned the growing persecution of Christians around the world and called on its churches to pray and offer practical support. Release International, which supports persecuted Christians worldwide, has backed the call, warning ‘the world must wake up to the rise in violence against Christians.’

On February 11, the Church of England General Synod gave its unanimous backing to a call for prayer and action.

It went on to urge the UK government to implement in full all 22 recommendations made by the Bishop of Truro report on persecuted Christians in 2019, to which Release International was a contributor.

‘One in seven’

Synod: ‘Shocked by scale, scope and severity of persecution’

The Synod debate heard that 360 million Christians – roughly one in seven around the world – now face persecution. And members were given powerful accounts of how Christians maintain their faith amid threats, violence, imprisonment and murder.

Bishop of Truro Philip Mounstephen, who in 2019 carried out a review of Christian persecution for the Foreign Office, warned the situation has deteriorated even over the past year. 

He highlighted the ‘disastrous fall’ of Afghanistan to the Taliban, ‘now making it the most dangerous country on earth to be a Christian’.

And turning his attention to India, another country of concern to Release International, recalled the ‘outrageous murder’ of Pastor William Siraj, as he was returning home after Sunday service in Peshawar on January 30. 

Persecution Trends

Afghanistan and India are highlighted as countries of concern in the recent Persecution Trends report by UK-based Release International, which supports persecuted Christians around the world. The Persecution Trends report identifies the Sahel and Nigeria as emerging troublespots for Christian persecution.

‘The wholesale denial of freedom of religion or belief in today’s world is a great evil,’ Bishop Philip told the Synod. He said he had been shocked by the ‘scale, scope and severity’ of the persecution his Report had found.

‘That people should be targeted simply because they believe different things and organise their lives accordingly is a monstrous evil,’ he said. 

‘Wake up call’

Release International CEO Paul Robinson welcomed the unanimous call to prayer and action: ‘The world must wake up to the scale and scope of the persecution of Christians, who are targeted for violence and discrimination in growing numbers.

‘And the Church in the free world must waken from its slumber to make the very best of the precious freedom we still have. We owe that to our persecuted brothers and sisters.’

Father Damian Feeney, from the Diocese of Lichfield, who co-presented the debate, said: ‘We pray that today a spark which ignited an individual conscience can blaze into a fire of prayer, advocacy and practical concern for our sisters and brothers for whom danger and vulnerability are the daily reality carried for allegiance to Jesus Christ.’

Release International is active in around 30 countries. It works through partners to prayerfully, pastorally, and practically support the families of Christian martyrs, prisoners of faith and their families, as well as Christians suffering oppression and violence, and Christians forced to flee.