215 million Christians face religious persecution worldwide, EPP Group Members heard at a meeting with Michel Varton, Director of Open Doors, a leading NGO working to prevent the persecution of Christians, in Strasbourg today (Thursday). Co-Chair of the EPP Group's Working Group on Intercultural and Interreligious Dialogue, Jan Olbrycht MEP, described the latest statistics as shocking and very frightening and condemned all acts of violence or any form of persecution against persons due to their religious beliefs.
"Religious persecution can be inflicted on Christians in the form of physical violence which is tragically very apparent in many areas of the world, but also by applying societal pressure whereby Christianity is quashed by law, by culture, or when Christians or newly converted Christians are pressured to renounce their faith," Mr Olbrycht said in Strasbourg.
Open Doors has found that 215 million Christians face religious persecution around the world, while 948 were killed in 2016 due to their religious beliefs. The NGO's World Watch List 2017 further states that Christians have been most devastated by the chaos in the Middle East, their numbers reduced from 20 percent of the population to just 5 percent because of violence, persecution and emigration to escape conflict. Southeast Asia has also been listed as a hotbed of religious persecution.
"The 10 countries listed as having the highest occurrence of persecution against Christians under the 2017 World Watch List are North Korea, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen and Eritrea. Europe cannot turn a blind eye to such atrocities and we must continue to keep the issue of the persecution of Christians or persecution of any religious persons high on the agenda," Mr Olbyrcht added.
The latest research shows that 1,188 Christian churches were vandalised or attacked in the last year, including 97 in Europe.