Anti-Christian persecution in Nigeria and other countries “clearly passes the threshold of genocide,” according to a report released Wednesday by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
The Catholic charity found that oppression or persecution of Christians increased in 75% of the countries it tracked between October 2020 and September 2022, compared with the period 2017-2019.
The study, “Persecuted and Forgotten? A Report on Christians oppressed for their Faith 2020–22,” concluded that “escalating violence – often aimed at driving Christians out – meant that the faithful suffered some of the world’s most vicious campaigns of intimidation orchestrated by militant non-state actors.”
“Of particular concern in this regard is Africa where extremism threatens previously strong Christian communities. In Nigeria and other countries this violence clearly passes the threshold of genocide,” it said.
The United Nations defines genocide as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”
The new study – the eighth in ACN’s “Persecuted and Forgotten?” series, launched in 2006 – opened with a foreword by Fr. Andrew Adeniyi Abayomi, the associate pastor of a church in Owo, Ondo State, where at least 40 people were killed at a Mass on Pentecost Sunday.
“The world has turned away from Nigeria,” he wrote. “A genocide is taking place, but no one cares.”
The report quoted a Church leader accusing the Ethiopian government and Eritrean forces of declaring “genocide on the people of Tigray,” Ethiopia’s northernmost region.
It also said that “extreme Christian persecution” in North Korea had “reached the threshold for genocide, with reports of murder, forced abortions and infanticide, and slavery.”
ACN examined 24 countries where Christians are at high risk, concluding that the situation is now “worse” in 12 of the nations and “slightly worse” in a further six. Conditions were now “slightly better” in two countries (Sri Lanka and Iraq) and unchanged in the remaining four.
The report said that conditions had worsened for Christians in the world’s two most populous countries: China and India. It noted that Chinese authorities had “increased pressure on Christians, with arrests, the forced closure of churches and new draconian legislation,” while India saw a record number of attacks on Christians.
The text highlighted the ongoing trial of Cardinal Joseph Zen, the former bishop of Hong Kong, connected to his role as a trustee of a now-defunct relief fund helping pro-democracy protesters.
The report’s executive summary said: “In Africa, the situation of Christians worsened in all countries reviewed amid evidence of a sharp increase in genocidal violence from militant non-state actors, including jihadists.”
“In the Middle East, continuing migration deepened the crisis threatening the survival of three of the world’s oldest and most important Christian communities located in Iraq, Syria, and Palestine.”
It added: “In Asia, state authoritarianism has been the critical factor causing worsening oppression against Christians in Burma (Myanmar), China, Vietnam, and elsewhere. At its worst, freedom of religion and conscience is being strangulated, as in North Korea.”
“Elsewhere in Asia, religious nationalism has caused increasing persecution against Christians in Afghanistan, India, Pakistan and elsewhere.”
The report concluded that while governments were “starting to recognize the importance of freedom of religion or belief,” there was a long way to go to ensure the protection of Christian minorities worldwide.
“Part of the problem is a cultural misperception in the West that continues to deny that Christians remain the most widely persecuted faith group,” it said.
ACN has helped persecuted and suffering Christians since it was founded in 1947. It supports more than 5,000 projects in over 140 countries each year and was elevated to a pontifical foundation by Benedict XVI in 2011.