The papal visit to Iraq put the spotlight on Christian persecution in the Middle East as a new poll shows American Catholics expressing growing concern about Christian persecution around the world.
About 57 per cent of US Catholics believe that the persecution of Christians around the world is “very severe,” up from 41 per cent a year ago; and 67 per cent say they are “very concerned” about the issue.
Almost 50 per cent of US Catholics believe that half or more of religiously based attacks around the world are directed at Christians. They identify China as the country where Christians are most severely persecuted, followed by North Korea and Pakistan.
The fourth annual nationwide poll examining the views of US Catholics on the global persecution of Christians was conducted in February 2021 by McLaughlin and Associates for Aid to the Church in Need-USA (ACNUSA). The survey aimed to measure:
Yet, despite their awareness of Christian persecution around the world, US Catholics are not well informed of the horrific instances of persecution, such as in Pakistan, in 2020, where 1,000 primarily Christian underage girls were abducted and threatened to be forcibly converted to Islam; in China, Mass-goers are subject to digital surveillance; in Nigeria, nearly 3,500 Christians were killed for their faith in 2020, and in North Korea being a Christian can carry the death penalty.
The survey reveals that 52 per cent of US Catholics say that Pope Francis is “very engaged” on the issue of the persecution of Christians—up from 47 per cent a year ago; 30 per cent think their local bishop is “very engaged” and 28 per cent believe their parish is very involved with the issue.
“It is heartening that, compared to a year ago, significantly more US Catholics say that Christian persecution around the world is very grave and that the issue has become a matter of concern to more faithful. They also want both their Church and their government to step up efforts to do more to combat the issue,” said George Marlin, ACNUSA chairman.
Most importantly, “The poll shows the great need to inform the public regarding specific instances of Christian persecution; the US bishops and organizations like our own must step up our educational and informational efforts.”
He concluded: “It is my hope that leaders around the world embrace the fundamental human right of religious freedom, and promote a society that respects ethnic, cultural and especially religious diversity.”