Chaired by U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), who oversees a congressional panel that monitors global human rights issues, the hearing included testimony from the likes of Francis A.. Chullikatt, Archbishop and Permanent Observer, of The Holy See Mission at the United Nations as well as eyewitnesses to the shocking persecution that is being endured every day by Christians around the world.
“This subcommittee has and will continue to highlight the suffering of religious minorities around the globe, be they Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan, Ba’hai in Iran, Buddhists in occupied Tibet, Yazidis in Iraq or the Muslim Royhinga people in Burma,” Smith said. “Christians, however, remain the most persecuted religious group the world over, and thus deserve the special attention that today’s hearing will give them.”
Nowhere is this persecution more apparent than in the Middle East.
“Flagrant and widespread persecution of Christians rages in the Middle East even as we meet,” said Archbishop Chullikatt, who experienced first-hand the kind of violence Christians endure while serving as papal nuncio to Iraq. It was on his watch that the October 31, 2010 attack on Our Lady of Deliverance Catholic Cathedral occurred, leaving 58 Catholics dead and 70 wounded.
“No Christian is exempt, whether or not he or she is Arab. Arab Christians, a small but significant community, find themselves the target of constant harassment for no reason other than their religious faith,” the Archbishop said. “This tragedy is all the more egregious when one pauses to consider that these men and women of faith are loyal sons and daughters of the countries in which they are full citizens and in which they have been living at peace with their neighbors and fellow citizens for untold generations.”
John L. Allen, Jr., author of Global War on Christians, testified to the extent of the persecution, highlighting country after country where heartless violence is being perpetrated against the followers of Christ.
“Christians today indisputably are the most persecuted religious body on the planet, and too often their martyrs suffer in silence,” he wrote.
One of the more egregious examples in his report was that of the northeastern Indian state of Orissa which Allen describes as the site of the most violent anti-Christian pogrom in the 21st century. In one year alone, 500 Christians were killed and 50,000 left homeless. It was here that a Catholic nun, Sr. Meena Barwa, was raped and marched naked through the streets, then beaten. Local police were sympathetic to the radicals and declined to arrest her attackers. In this and other sections of India, there are as many as two attacks per day on Christians.
Also testifying was Khataza Gondwe, Ph.D., team leader for Africa and the Middle East for Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW). He reported on the case of Father Anselm Mwang’amba, an elderly Catholic priest who was attacked in August as he left an internet café in the historic Stone Town area of the Zanzibar capital. He received a phone call while inside the cafe and when he came outside to answer his phone, was doused with acid and left with severe burns to the face, neck, chest and hands.
But it’s not just clergy who are suffering persecution. The laity is also enduring disgraceful indignities, such as this testimony which was included in the report of Benedict Rogers, CSW’s East Asia Team Leader. It is from a woman in Burma’s Katchin state who visited her husband a month after he was imprisoned in 2012.
“When I visited my husband, his whole face was wounded. He was covered in blood, and his nose was broken. He had faced so many different kinds of torture during interrogation. An iron bar was rubbed along his legs. He was forced to engage in homosexual sex, and forced to dance the traditional Kachin Manau dance. He was told that as he was a Christian, he should kneel on very sharp stones with his arms outstretched like Christ on the cross, and then the others were forced to dance the Manau dance around him. He was beaten on his hands and arms. Police took off his clothes, and asked the men to have sex with each other. When they refused, they were beaten and forced to do it. One of them was tied up with ice and beaten severely…. They were hit in the head with guns.”
Included in the testimony was a report on the radical Muslim group, Boko Haram, which has been terrorizing the Christian population in the African nation of Nigeria. In one case, a Boko Haram attack on Christians near the Borno State capital of Maidurguri left three pastors dead, 20 churches torched and numerous Christian-owned businesses destroyed. Over 100 Christian men, women and children were abducted and used as human shields. Survivors told of being subjected to intensive “indoctrination” sessions where male hostages were given a choice of converting to Islam or being beheaded while women were subject to “hard labor” if they refused to forsake Christ. An unknown number of women and girls have been captured and forced into sexual slavery.
Gondwe also reports on the country of Eritrea where female Christian prisoners are being regularly beaten on the soles of their feet and their wombs, ostensibly to render them barren. In her autobiography, Helen Berhane, a well known singer and evangelist from one of the largest Pentecostal churches in Eritrea, vividly described the condition of a lady beaten so severely that her uterus prolapsed and hung from her body. Ms. Berhane herself was imprisoned in Mai Serwa Military Camp for 32 months where she endured numerous beatings, the last of which was of such ferocity that it caused severe nerve damage, impairing her mobility
In many countries Christians are being denied access to education, employment, social amenities and even vaccinations. In one country, gunmen are mounting roadblocks where they kill or kidnap any Christian they stop. In another country, Christian graveyards are being used as refuse dumps.
Chris Smith and the leaders of international Christian watchdog groups are calling upon the West to use financial and diplomatic pressure against offending countries to put a stop to this deadly global pogrom.
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