So today my sister sent me a link to a article from the West Australian detailing WA Liberal MP Luke Simpkins and his support of anti-halal food, or that all food should be labelled halal if it is, because otherwise we’re being stealth converted. Who knew that halal food was a gateway drug to Islam. From the West Australian:
“By having Australians unwittingly eating Halal food we are all one step down the path towards the conversion, and that is a step we should only make with full knowledge and one that should not be imposed upon us without us knowing,” Mr Simpkins told Parliament.
The petition tabled by Mr Simpkins had been organised by the Barnabas Fund, an organisation that supports Christians living in Muslim countries.
I thought initially I’d write about how Mr Simpkins was an arsehat and perhaps award him the arsehat of the week award, but then I thought I’d look into the Barnabas Fund to see what their petition said. Oddly enough I couldn’t find a petition regarding halal meat, instead I found a petition calling for the Government to recognise that Christians are one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.
According to Barnabas:
Christians are one of the largest and most persecuted groups in the world. Yet they often appear to be the most neglected group in Western governments’ foreign policy. There is little concrete engagement with the issue of anti-Christian persecution, even though governments may recognise that respect for minorities and human rights is a foundation stone for national and international peace and security.
Barnabas Fund’s Proclaim Freedom campaign will run to the end of 2012 and will seek to raise the profile of the persecuted Church around the world. It will have two specific aims:
- to press governments to be active in promoting human rights in other countries for all minorities, but especially religious freedom for the roughly 200 million Christians living under the shadow of persecution, discrimination and disadvantage (source)
I thought that 200 million Christians was a big number of Christians that are facing persecution, and thought I’d have a quick look into where that number comes from, and investigate a bit more thoroughly.
Now the number of Christians that are actively being persecuted, may possibly be persecuted, or live in countries where there is discrimination against them (that might not amount to persecution) is a slippery number. Different sources have numbers between 100 million and 300 million Christians facing persecution and/or discrimination. This also appears to be an estimated number, hence a very large potential for a margin of error.
Reuters reported in January 2013 that the number of Christians being persecuted is 100 million:
“There are over 65 countries where Christians are persecuted,” said the report released on Tuesday by Open Doors, which began in the 1950s smuggling Bibles into communist states and now works in more than 60 countries.
“An estimated 100 million Christians worldwide are persecuted,” the United States-based group said in the report. All but one of the 50 countries in the list – Colombia, which ranked 46th – were in Africa, Asia or the Middle East.
Christianity is the largest and most widely spread faith in the world, with 2.2 billion followers or 32 percent of the world population, according to a report by the Washington-based Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
It faces restrictions and hostility in 111 countries around the world, ahead of the 90 countries limiting or harassing the second-largest faith, Islam, another Pew report said.
Open Doors of course being a Christian organisation that believes that spreading Christianity about is a great idea, and works to support persecuted Christians.
Wikipedia has the number of persecuted Christians set at 200 million, the same number as Barnabas, as does the Christian Reformed Church, and the National Catholic Reporter, which even explains how the number has been arrived at:
According to a recent Pew Forum analysis, 10 percent of Christians live in societies in which they’re a minority. Given that there are 2.18 billion Christians on the planet, this translates into more than 200 million people, many facing threats such as those in the Gaza Strip.
An article that is widely republished on the internet but which I cannot find the original source of, has an Anthony Browne, “Europe correspondent of the Times” put the number of persecuted Christians at 300 million.
If we accept that some hundreds of millions of people are at risk of persecution, actively being persecuted, or who are discriminated against due to being Christian, where are these Christians being persecuted?
Today [March 2012], the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (Uscirf) released its14th annual report, which it is mandated to do under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998. The report identifies the world’s worst persecutors and makes foreign-policy recommendations, which are non-binding, to the administration and Congress. Its decisions are based on the agency’s visits to foreign countries, and a wide array of other sources, including the State Department’ s own excellent annual compilation of worldwide religious-freedom violations. The commission is distinctive because it is an independent federal agency, and it is to make its name-and-shame lists and policy recommendations unburdened by foreign-policy considerations other than the defense of religious freedom.
This year, Uscirf named 16 countries as the most egregious and systematic religious freedom violators in the world and recommended them for official “Country of Concern” (CPC) designation by the U.S. State Department. They are: Burma, China, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, (north) Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.
Christians, Jews, Baha’is, Mandeans, Ahmadiyas, Rohingya Muslims, Yizidis, Alevis, Shiite and Ismaili Muslims in Saudi Arabia, African traditional believers in Sudan, Uighur Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists, Falun Gong practitioners, Sufi Muslims, Pakistani Hindus, independent Buddhists in Vietnam, Cao Dai, and many others groups and individuals are persecuted in these 16 countries. They suffer arrest, torture, imprisonment and even death for religious reasons, as well as other pressures. All these groups are covered in the Uscirf report.
Christians are far from the only religious group persecuted in these countries. But, Christians are the only group persecuted in each and every one of them. This pattern has been found by sources as diverse as the Vatican, Open Doors, Pew Research Center, Newsweek, and The Economist, all of which recently reported that an overwhelming majority of the religiously persecuted around the world are Christians. Globally, this persecution is experienced by all Christian faith traditions from Pentecostal and evangelical to Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox.
In many cases the persecution is at the hands of the government, as, for example, in China, Burma, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, but often, in places like Nigeria and Iraq, it is committed by religious extremists and vigilantes in the society who operate within a climate of impunity. In Pakistan and Egypt persecution is sponsored by all three — the authorities, extremist groups, and vigilantes. [Hudson Institute]
On one hand I’m concerned that there are people out there are who are solely concerned with the fact that Christians are being persecuted and that many other religious groups (as identified by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom) don’t rate a mention for those people. Not to mention all the other people who are persecuted due to their political beliefs, race, nationality, or membership of a particular social group (often includes members of the LGBTIQ community, unionists, occupational groups, families, etc).
I’m a huge supporter of human rights for all. Although I don’t agree with the premise of religion and the way many religious institutions operate, I am not against individuals choosing to believe or follow a certain religion, and I believe that choice should be free from persecution or discrimination.