By EDWIN MORA, 20 Apr 2017
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Nearly one Christian is killed every hour around the world for practicing their faith, said the Archbishop of the U.S. capital.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl made those comments on Thursday while delivering the keynote address during the one-day symposium at the National Press Club focused on Christian prosecution.
The event featured the release of a report by the University of Notre Dame’s Under Caesar’s Sword project titled, “In Response to Persecution.”
Christian persecution is a worldwide phenomenon, noted the Washington archbishop.
“Reports suggest that about 200 million Christians around the world are at risk of physical violence, arrest, torture, even death simply because they live and practice a faith that is not acceptable to the rulers in that part of the world,” he pointed out.
“The journalist John Allen recently estimated that, this is a quote, the number of Christians killed for religious reasons is ‘roughly one every hour, 365 days a year,’” added the cardinal.
That amounts to about 9,000 Christians killed per year, which is consistent with a study by the Turin-based Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR).
According to the study, about 9,000 Christians were killed worldwide for practicing their faith last year.
The estimate marks a nearly 20-percent increase from the 7,100 Christians whom Open Doors USA said lost their lives for religious reasons in 2015.
Analysts, including Open Doors, have deemed Christians the most persecuted group in the world.
Nevertheless, the persecution report says, “Christian responses to persecution are almost always nonviolent and, with very few exceptions, do not involve acts of terrorism.”
Wuerl noted that persecuted adherents of Christianity in the birthplace of the faith, the Middle East, are suffering the most.
“The place where persecution of Christians is being most severely experienced is the very place where Christianity all began,” he said. “In that region of the world is the birthplace of the Christian faith.”
Last year, the American government acknowledged that the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) had been committing genocide against Christians and other ethnoreligious minorities in the Middle East.
Echoing members of the ethnoreligious minority groups victimized by ISIS, Cardinal Wuerl said nothing changed for the persecuted Christians following the genocide declaration.
Specifically, Wuerl said, “Life has not gotten any better” for Christians in the Middle East since the former U.S. administration conceded that ISIS had been carrying out genocide.
“The civil war in Syria, which has included war crimes such as the use of chemical weapons, among other horrors, has added to suffering imposed on these innocent people [including Christians], which did not bring this conflict into being,” said the archbishop.
Wuerl’s comments come after some Catholic leaders criticized President Donald Trump’s administration for launching airstrikes against Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in response to the leader’s most recent use of chemical weapons.
Syrian Christians are “vulnerable” as a result of the civil war in the country, which has been raging since 2011, notes the persecution report featured during Thursday’s event.
In the war-ravaged country, many Christians have ‘“reluctantly” directed their loyalty to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, it adds.
Although many Christians support Assad, Christian militia based in Syria’s northeastern al-Hasakah province has expressed disdain for the dictator.
The Syriac Military Council (MFS) militia is part of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurds, Arabs, Turks, and other groups preparing to fight ISIS to retake their de-facto capital in Syria Raqqa.