Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has just published the latest inventory of religious persecution in the world: it highlights the “exponential growth” of jihadist groups, some of which are affiliated with the Islamic State organization (ISIS), especially in sub-Saharan Africa and East Africa. Christians are once again in the crosshairs.
“Over the past two years, jihadist groups have consolidated their presence in sub-Saharan Africa: the region has become a haven for more than two dozen groups actively operating - increasingly cooperating with each other - in 14 countries; most of these groups are affiliated with ISIS or al-Qaeda,” said Marcela Szymanski in this report published on April 20, 2021.
For the researcher, “The development of these ISIS-affiliated groups has taken place in an extremely short period of time, and the pattern is always the same: local criminal gangs start by attacking sporadically and at random. Spotted and stimulated by Salafist preachers, they then move on to an ideological stage and operate in a targeted manner.”
Faith-based persecution has particularly worsened in Nigeria, Mozambique, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and other African countries, where Christians are easy prey for radical Islamists.
The Marxist Dictatorship
In mainland Asia, several countries continue to be ruled by one-party Marxist dictatorships. China, with a population of 1.4 billion, is distinguished by establishing one of the world’s most invasive and effective tools of state control over religion.
Combining mass surveillance, a social credit system that scrutinizes and sanctions individual behavior, and brutal crackdowns on religious and ethnic groups suspected of disloyalty, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is reaching new heights when it comes to stifling religious freedom.
In addition, as the China report reveals, the situation has become more brutal since Xi Jinping was elected President of China in 2013, as evidenced by the massive internment of over a million Uyghurs, mostly Muslims, and their subjugation to coercive “de-radicalization” programs since 2017.
North Korea, Vietnam, and Laos are other mainland Asian regimes based on Marxist-style ideologies and similar religious control mechanisms. As the report on North Korea demonstrates, this country practices an even more severe policy of extermination of religion than that of the CCP.
Vietnam and Laos, meanwhile, continue to implement modest and incremental reforms granting state-registered religious communities greater freedom to own property and pursue religious activities.
Thomas Heine-Geldern, president of the international branch of ACN, deplores that “despite proclamations - important as they are - by the UN, … to date the response of the international community to the violence and the religious persecutions in general can be described as too weak and too late.”
It is easier to brandish perceived threats against the climate, and get lost in Byzantine discussions, than to face more urgent, and more threatening dangers.