ROME — The Vatican’s foreign minister said that Christians have grown “too complacent” in the face of widespread Christian persecution and need a greater commitment to oppose it.
“Speaking to some extent on behalf of the Catholic Church and the Holy See, I think in some ways perhaps we became too complacent in front of persecution, too used to it being a phenomenon in our community story, and thought therefore perhaps it was something you had to live with, something that we can’t do anything about,” said Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher during an online forum marking the first anniversary of the 176-page “Truro report” on the global persecution of Christians.
“I think the Truro report was a very significant effort to do something about that,” he said, in reference to the U.K. report showing that Christians suffer the heaviest burden of persecution globally. “It was a bit of a wake-up call,” he said.
The report was commissioned in 2018 by Jeremy Hunt, a former British foreign secretary, and released on July 8, 2019. The independent commission that produced the report was led by the Anglican Bishop of Truro, England, Philip Mounstephen.
“I think also we all know the denial of religious freedom is the beginning of the denial and erosion of so many other human rights; it is almost the litmus test of human rights,” said Gallagher in his remarks.
The archbishop added that it is important for Christians and other people of goodwill to make “a renewed effort to underline the question of conscience in general, even outside the religious sphere,” because “we do see — even in the West, developed world — the progressive erosion of conscience and, therefore, also of human rights.”
Jeremy Hunt also joined the online forum and stated that when he was in office, it had become clear to him that “standing up for the rights of Christians had been somewhat of a blind spot in our foreign policy.”
A variety of cultural and historic reason had “obscured some of the tragedies happening right in front of our eyes, the 250 million Christians persecuted every year for their faith, the terrible atrocities that we all know about,” he said. “I decided that we needed to do something about it.”
Last January, Open Doors released its World Watch List 2020, declaring that Christian persecution around the globe had reached an unprecedented level at the end of 2019 with more than 260 million Christians facing “high levels of persecution.”
One in eight believers around the world suffers serious levels of persecution, the report found, while providing an in-depth look at the 50 countries where it is most dangerous to be a Christian.
The report noted that every day, eight Christians are killed because of their faith, and 23 Christians are raped or sexually harassed; every week, 182 Christian churches or buildings are attacked, and 102 Christian homes, shops, or businesses are attacked, burned, or destroyed; and every month, 309 Christians are imprisoned unjustly.