The Pew Research Centre Report, which analyses religious freedom in 198 countries and territories, reveals that Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world today, with significant levels of persecution in 144 countries, according according to 2016 data.
Every month, an average 345 Christians are killed for faith-related reasons, and 105 churches and other Christian buildings are burned or attacked. Worldwide, one out of nine Christians experiences high levels of persecution.
While North Korea is rated the most dangerous country for Christians, they are also targeted by Islamic extremists in countries like Pakistan, Iran, and Nigeria-and by communist regimes in China and North Korea.
Islamic oppression is behind the persecution of Christians in eight of the 10 worst countries. In Muslim-majority countries, Christians are discriminated against for jobs, violently attacked, or even killed. Their persecution is not only more prevalent in Muslim-majority countries, but it also generally occurs at a more severe level.
And it is not just radical Muslims attacking Christians. Hindu nationalists in India frequently assault Christians, usually with no consequences from official authorities. And in the officially atheistic communist-controlled nation of China, there is an increasing hostility toward Christians. Vietnam has also stepped up its persecution of Christians in recent years.
But is intolerance of Christians slowly creeping into 'Western societies' such as Australia?
Christianity is both poorly understood and considered negatively by many Australians. The last census indicates that more than a quarter of all Australians (26 percent) have a negative view of Christianity. Those who proclaim allegiance to Christianity have been facing an increasingly hostile environment.
Here in Australia we see a subtle persecution of Christians. For example, if an Australian believes in the teachings of the Bible and says so publicly, he or she should be prepared to be mocked and ridiculed by many, including some of our own political leaders. And if a Christian school upholds social beliefs based on traditional Christian values, this school might be denied government funding and be accused of breaching anti-discrimination laws.
Thus in Australia we have seen an employee dismissed for her temerity in opposing gay marriage via her private Facebook account; a rugby player being fired for posting also on Facebook a controversial passage in Scripture which condemns the practice of homosexuality; and a Christian has faced criminal convictions under exclusion zone laws for a simple act of handing a piece of paper presenting the Christian perspective about the sanctity of human life.
These are only a few examples of persecution of Christians, and numerous others could be given. Indeed, a considerable number of Australians believe that the rise of anti-Christian sentiment is a particularly serious concern that requires a more serious consideration.
To know more about 'Religious Freedom at Crossroads: The Rise of Anti-Christian Sentiment in the West', visit the conference website.
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