Persecuted and Forgotten?

A report on Christians oppressed for their Faith 2015-17

Decapitated statue of Our Lady in the destroyed St Addai’s Church, Karemles, northern Iraq

View Full Report Download Executive Summary Faces of Persecution

Persecution against Christians in the worst-affected regions reached a new peak, the impact of which is only now beginning to be felt in all its horror.

Persecution around the World

In China, more than 2,000 churches and crosses were demolished within just 12 months up to and including April 2016.

In Egypt, it is illegal to convert from Islam to Christianity.

In Iransaying Mass in the main language of Farsi is not allowed. Priests are required to ask a Muslim attending a service to leave or else face possible arrest for alleged proselytism – seeking converts.

In Iraq’s Nineveh Plains12,970 homes were damaged or destroyed in Christian majority towns and villages during a 2½-year occupation by Daesh (ISIS). 120,000 people were displaced.

In northern Nigeria’s Maiduguri Diocese, Islamist Boko Haram mass killing and other violence caused 1.8 million to be displaced and  left 5,000 widows  and 15,000 orphans.

View Country Profiles

Targeting of religious belief – driven by hatred of Christians and the faith itself – emerges as a common denominator in hundreds of testimonies of persecution received by Aid to the Church in Need from countries around the world. As a Catholic charity providing emergency and pastoral relief in 140 countries, ACN is committed to chronicling and assessing the evolving phenomenon of persecution against Christians around the world today.

Persecuted and Forgotten? 2015-17 assesses both the nature of the threats to Christians and the underlying causes. It identifies trends and, where possible, predicts future developments.

Everyday Christians suffering persecution for their faith – many of them are left with no choice but to flee for their lives – the extent of this persecution is largely ignored by our media.

Aid to the Church in Need is committed to finding out the truth about persecuted Christians today. Drawing on fact-finding trips, first-hand testimonies and facts and figures from little-known corners of the world, the 2017 report reveals the faces of persecution. Persecuted Christians need us to tell their story.

Father Werenfried van Straaten, the founder of Aid to the Church in Need, once said: “Our persecuted brothers and sisters are the elite of the Church. To show solidarity with them is a matter of honour.”

Although the precise number of Christians persecuted for their faith remains unclear, reports showing a fall in the number of deaths during the period under review to below 100,000 nevertheless highlight that the violence against followers of Jesus Christ remains severe.

Main Findings

Summary of findings from Persecuted and Forgotten? A report of Christians Persecution and Oppression in the World 2015 – 2017

Christian Eritrean refugees Hitsats camp in northern Ethiopia.

  • In almost all the countries reviewed, the oppression and violence against Christians have increased since 2015 – a development especially significant given the rate of decline in the immediate run-up to the reporting period. The one exception is Saudi Arabia, where the situation was already so bad it could scarcely get any worse.
  • In Iraq, the exodus of Christians is so severe that one of the world’s oldest churches is on course to all but disappear within three years unless there is dramatic change for the better.
  • This same exodus is threatening the survival of Christianity in parts of Syria including Aleppo, formerly home to one of the largest Christian communities in the whole of the Middle East.
  • Daesh (ISIS) and other Islamist militant groups have committed genocide in Syria and Iraq.
  • Governments in the West and the UN failed to offer Christians in countries such as Iraq and Syria the emergency help they needed as genocide got underway. If Christian organisations and other institutions had not filled the gap, the Christian presence could already have disappeared in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East.
  • The defeat of Daesh and other Islamists in major strongholds of the Middle East offers the last hope of recovery for Christian groups threatened with extinction. Many would not survive another similar violent attack.
  • Daesh affiliate Boko Haram has carried out genocide against Christians in northern Nigeria.
  • Christians have suffered increased violence and oppression as a result of a rise in religious nationalism. In India, for example, persecution has risen sharply since the rise to power of the right-wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014.
  • In China, where the President has described Christianity as “a foreign infiltration”, increased hostility to Church communities accused of resisting government control has resulted in the increasingly widespread removal of crosses from churches and the destruction of Church buildings. Some regional authorities have banned Christmas trees and greetings cards.
  • In worst-offending North Korea, “unspeakable atrocities” against Christians include enforced starvation, abortion and reports of faithful being hung on crosses over a fire and others being crushed under a steamroller.


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