Shedding light on persecution awareness

Friday March 16, 2018 Written by Published in Church Talk

The Colosseum in Rome was recently lit up with the colour of blood.

 

“This is a symbol of the persecution of Christians in the entire world - those who suffer because of faith,” said Alfredo Mantovano, president of the Italian chapter of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the global Catholic organisation which sponsored the February 24 light display.

“We light up the Colosseum with red because their shed blood cannot leave us indifferent,” he said. “We cannot wash our hands of the blood of this injustice as Pontius Pilate did 2,000 years ago.”

The reminder was a timely one for Catholics in the United States, according to a survey released this month.

While nine in 10 believe persecution of Christians around the world is somewhat or very severe (51 per cent and 40 per cent, respectively), only half said they were very concerned (49 per cent). Almost 1 in 5 said they were not concerned at all (18 per cent).

Instead, the study of 1,000 Catholic adults (conducted online in January by ACN’s US branch and McLaughlin & Associates) found that they worry about other issues more.

More than 9 in 10 American Catholics worry about human trafficking (72 per cent very concerned, 21 per cent somewhat concerned) or about poverty (68 per cent very, 26 per cent somewhat). More than 8 in 10 worry about the refugee crisis (51 per cent very, 36 per cent somewhat) or about climate change (55 per cent very, 28 per cent somewhat).

Then comes Christian persecution (49 per cent very, 33 per cent somewhat). It’s close behind, but has the lowest level of concern out of the five issues surveyed, as well as the highest share of those with no concern: Christian persecution (18 per cent), climate change (16 per cent), refugees (14 per cent), human trafficking (7 per cent), and poverty (6 per cent).

As John Allen, a veteran Catholic journalist and analyst, noted for Crux, the results reveal “a relatively low level of urgency among American Catholics about coming to the aid of persecuted Christians.”

“The survey reveals quite clearly that there is a need to increase the engagement level of the US Catholic Church when it comes to global Christian persecution, both at the grassroots and leadership levels,” said George Marlin, chair of ACN-USA.

Three out of five American Catholics said that Christians experience less than half of religiously-based attacks around the world.

They’re incorrect: Researchers with Under Caesar’s Sword, a $1 million Templeton Religious Trust study, found that Christians experience between 60 to 80 per cent of the world’s religious discrimination. (More of it is experienced by evangelicals/Pentecostals than by Catholics.)

American Catholics were more accurate when ranking the top five worst persecutors of Christians out of 16 nations. Their picks: North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Pakistan.

Two of their picks match one of the most respected rankings, Open Doors’s World Watch List, which ranks the top five persecutors of Christians as North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, and Pakistan. Iraq is No 8, Iran is No 10, and Syria is No 15.

Most American Catholics believe diplomatic pressure is very important to save and protect beleaguered Christians (59 per cent), as are economic sanctions (55 per cent). But only half believe offering emergency asylum (50 per cent) or providing financial aid (47 per cent) are very important. And less than half believe military intervention (40 per cent) or arming Christian communities (40 per cent) are very important.

On a personal level, many said it was very important to pray (64 per cent), to raise awareness at the parish level (56 per cent), and to contact members of Congress (49 per cent).

About half said it was very important to donate to agencies that help persecuted Christians (53 per cent); more than half said they have done so in the past year (53 per cent).

“Giving increases among regular Mass-goers,” the report stated. “The majority of those who do not regularly attend Mass do not give to any organisation.”

Pope Francis often references the persecuted church, and American Catholics have noticed. Four out of five said he was very (49 per cent) or somewhat (33 per cent) engaged on the issue, higher than they ranked US bishops (27 per cent very, 39 per cent somewhat) or their local parish (24 per cent very, 42 per cent somewhat).

About half said it was very important to donate to agencies that help persecuted Christians (53 per cent); more than half said they have done so in the past year (53 per cent).

“Giving increases among regular Mass-goers,” the report stated. “The majority of those who do not regularly attend Mass do not give to any organisation.”

“There is a need to better inform and engage the Catholic audience,” Marlin said. “There is an obligation to keep the spotlight on the topic and showcase the seriousness and pervasiveness of Christian persecution around the world.”

            - Christianity Today

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