In another example of the improving coverage of Christian persecution by the Canadian secular media, the National Post published an excellent article on Thursday on the how the United States has lost a major opportunity to help improve the plight of Christians in China by putting financial interests first, according to the author of a new report on religious freedom.
"It's terribly inconsistent. It's a real black eye in American foreign policy for us to turn a blind eye to the human rights abuses going on in China while we pursue economic advantage," Carl Moeller, head of Open Doors USA, said yesterday.
"It's like selling our birthright. Our nation was founded by people fleeing Europe to seek the very religious freedom being denied people in these countries.
"In the case of China, the chance to use influence is now gone. The American economy has become enslaved to the Chinese banks. It would be economic suicide to make threats now."
His remarks came as the California non-denominational Christian group issued its World Watch List, which ranks 50 countries in terms of their abuse of Christians.
North Korea, an official atheist state that worships its supreme leader, was the most fanatically anti-Christian, followed by Iran, Saudi Arabia and Somalia. China was No. 13.
"They [North Korea] have arrested and tortured Christians in various horrible ways, such as sometimes using them as a means of testing biological or chemical weapons," the report said.
Mr. Moeller said getting reliable information from North Korea is difficult, but over the years his group has made contact with enough people "on the ground" to believe these extreme reports are accurate.
He said many of the countries, especially those at the top of the list, are so politically isolated from the West the best that can be hoped is the report will give moral support to those facing bigotry and violence.
Other top offenders were: Somalia The report says Somali Christians "practise their faith in secret under extremely dangerous conditions. At least 10 Christians, including four teachers, were killed for their faith in 2008 and several others kidnapped and raped. Islam is the official religion; there is no legal provision for religious freedom." Yemen "Converts from Islam encounter opposition from the authorities and extremist groups who threaten 'apostates' with death if they do not turn back to Islam."
Mr. Moeller was particularly scathing about Saudi Arabia, which has strong military ties with the United States.
"Saudi Arabia is our ally and they are horrific when it comes to religious liberty," he said.
"[In general], Western governments are not doing enough to combat anti-religious activity."
Religious oppression is a global issue and not just restricted to Christians, Mr. Moeller acknowledged. But pointing out discrimination against Christians is an efficient way to point to the greater issue of religious liberty.
"Evangelicals are becoming a litmus test for human rights abuses in these countries. How Christians are treated in Iran is a good litmus test about how [Iranians] do on human rights overall."
In December, the Washington-based Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, which has no religious affiliation, produced a massive report called Global Restrictions on Religion. This looked at government restrictions and social hostility against religious groups.
The two-year study found 64 countries -- about one-third of all nations -- had "high or very high restrictions on religion."
"But because some of the most restrictive countries are very populous, nearly 70% of the world's 6.8 billion people live in countries with high restrictions on religion, the brunt of which falls on religious minorities."
Brian Grim, a senior researcher at Pew, said in those 64 countries minorities are constantly exposed to violence or imprisonment. Even those not persecuted directly find their civil liberties restricted.
WORLD'S TOP 10 ANTI-CHRISTIAN REGIMES
1. North Korea
3. Saudi Arabia
The National Post is perhaps the best example of secular press organizations here in Canada in covering religious liberty and Christian persecution but they are hardly alone. Others have also shown marked improvement in recent years, in my opinion. Could there be further improvement? Undoubtedly; but almost any special interest group would probably say the same. Let’s be grateful for the coverage being given and let editors know that we appreciate their coverage.
Also, continue to pray for the U.S. administration as they fail to assist Christians in China due to their financial priorities. Pray for the Canadian government as it has faced similar pressures but, to this point, has resisted stepping off of the human rights wagon in the pursuit of international trade with China.