Christians are now the most persecuted religious group in the world, according to the report for the British Foreign Office, with acts of violence and intimidation becoming more widespread.
The British foreign secretary said he was “shocked” by the findings, and that a culture of political correctness in Western nations had left them “asleep on the watch.”
Christianity faces extinction in parts of the Middle East where it first blossomed, according to the report findings.
“Evidence shows not only the geographic spread of anti-Christian persecution but also its increasing severity,” said the report, which was commissioned before the suicide bombings targeting Christians in Sri Lanka that left more than 250 dead last month.
The report author, Bishop Philip Mounstephen, said in a statement, “Through my previous experience of the global church in Asia and Africa I was aware of the terrible reality of persecution, but to be honest in preparing this report I’ve been truly shocked by the severity, scale, and scope of the problem. It forces us in the West to ask ourselves some hard questions, not the least of which is this: Why have we been so blind to this situation for so long?”
“It is also ironic that many Western secularists, Islamic extremists, and authoritarian regimes share a common erroneous assumption—that the Christian faith is primarily an expression of white Western privilege. In fact, Christianity is primarily a phenomenon of the global south and the global poor.”
The report notes that in some regions, the level and nature of the persecution is close to meeting the United Nations definition of genocide.
The main impact of those “genocidal” acts is an exodus, according to the report.
“Christianity now faces the possibility of being wiped-out in parts of the Middle East where its roots go back furthest. In Palestine, Christian numbers are below 1.5 percent; in Syria, the Christian population has declined from 1.7 million in 2011 to below 450,000 and in Iraq, Christian numbers have slumped from 1.5 million before 2003 to below 120,000 today. Christianity is at risk of disappearing, representing a massive setback for plurality in the region.”
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt noted that the persecution of Christians happens for different reasons in various parts of the world, but said that they had gone unchallenged due to a broader culture of “political correctness.”
“I think we’ve all been asleep on the watch when it comes to the persecution of Christians,” he told reporters in Addis Ababa, reported ITV. “I think there is a misplaced worry that it is somehow colonialist to talk about a religion that was associated with colonial powers rather than the countries that we marched into to as colonizers.”
“That has perhaps created an awkwardness in talking about this issue—the role of missionaries was always a controversial one and that has, I think, also led some people to shy away from this topic,” continued Hunt. “What we have forgotten in that atmosphere of political correctness is actually the Christians that are being persecuted are some of the poorest people on the planet.”
The report states that Christian women are more likely to suffer persecution.
The full findings of the report will be published in the summer.