The last prayer of the christians in the circus maximus. Image: jean-leon gerôme (1863-1883) / public domain
No faith group is subjected to as much persecution as christianity and muslims are mostly to blame. This is a widespread thesis. But is it really true?
It wasn’t long ago that most people were allowed to use the term "persecution of christians" at most have encountered in school. Then, when the teacher discussed the roman empire in history class. But times have changed.
At least since the cruel reports about the persecution of christians under the is, the corresponding term has also experienced a new renaissance: from the "most persecuted faith group in the world" speaks, for example, regularly union faction leader volker kauder.
Once a year, an evangelical association with its "world persecution index" and the warning of "200 million persecuted christians" into the headlines of coarse media (cf.: how christians were made the most persecuted faith group). And in social media, the reference to persecuted christians all too often becomes an appeal to discriminate against the religious group supposedly responsible: muslims.
The question remains: is it true?? The followers of the christian faith are the most persecuted religious community. And who is responsible for their suffering?
Researchers at the prestigious american pew institute, which has so far remained indifferent to religious and political partisanship, have taken up these questions. The results of their study, published at the beginning of june, offer something that has hardly been seen in the previous debate about the persecution of christians: differentiation.
To get to the bottom of the phenomenon of christian persecution, the researchers reevaluated another study. In the study global restrictions on religion, published in april of this year, the researchers asked across religions in which countries believers were exposed to discrimination and persecution by state or social groups in 2015. For the current re-evaluation, they now asked only about the fate of adherents of christianity. With sometimes surprising results:
1. Christians face persecution in many muslim and north african countries
According to the study, discrimination against christians is a common problem in muslim countries. Unsurprisingly, the researchers note, christians had "hostilities experienced in many of the muslim-majority countries of the middle east and north africa".
In syria, for example, religious tolerance in society has declined at the same rate as in the middle east "extremist groups gaining influence" have. N egypt, pew reports several cases of christian converts being murdered by is supporters. Overall, the region also ranks "middle east-north africa" ranks highest in terms of state persecution of religious groups.
2. Most christians are persecuted in majority christian states
Another result of the study is more surprising: the majority of persecuted christians live in countries that are themselves majority christian. The study authors write:
Christians were in fact harassed mainly in majority christian countries.
Pew research center
The researchers cite eritrea as an example. In the majority christian orthodox country, the state refuses to ie personal documents to followers of jehovah’s witnesses. Also among the numerous political prisoners in the country were predominantly protestants, more precisely: adherents of evangelical congregations and pentecostal churchmen.
However, the fact that most christians are persecuted in predominantly christian countries is, according to the study’s authors, due to the fact that the majority of the country’s population is christian "partly at the gross number of majority christian countries". This means: the number of persecuted christians in christian countries is higher overall simply because most christians live in majority christian countries.
3. Christians are the most persecuted faith group in the world
If one takes the total number of christians living in countries where they are threatened with persecution as a basis, the following thesis can also be confirmed on the basis of the pew study: christians are the most persecuted faith group in the world.
According to pew, christians were harassed in a total of 128 states in 2015, more countries than any other religious community. However, the study’s authors also draw a line here: the reason that no other religious community accounts for so many persecuted adherents in absolute numbers is simply that, at 2.3 billion, more people refer to christianity than to any other religion.
4. Christians are not the most persecuted faith group in the world
However, if we take the relative rather than the absolute number of persecuted adherents as a basis, the thesis of the most persecuted faith group cannot be substantiated on the basis of the pew study. Pew researchers have counted up all religious adherents living in states where they face persecution and put them in relation to the total number of believers.
In the resulting ranking, christians come after jews, hindus and muslims, "other" and "folk beliefs" only in sixth place. This means: an individual christian was less likely to be a victim of persecution in 2015 than an individual jew, hindu, or muslim.
It must be noted, however, that the results of all these studies are limited: pew did not estimate or extrapolate the actual number of persecuted religious adherents in relation to the total number of persecuted religious adherents. Instead, the researchers looked at the number of believers, "who live in countries where religious hostility occurred in 2015" in relation to the total number of adherents of the respective religion.