For the past few years, there has been a wave of persecution of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. In Syria, Iraq, Pakistan and Egypt, Christians are the target of Islamic extremists. In Nigeria, the terrorist group Boko Haram has been seeking to eradicate the Christian population of northern Nigeria. In communist North Korea, Christians are jailed for owning a Bible and 50,000 Christians are trapped in concentration camps. In India, Christians face discriminatory laws and have to fight persecution from Hindu extremists. In Israel, Jewish extremists have persecuted the Christian minority and put anti-Christian graffiti in Christian churches. One of the great Christian voices speaking out against this persecution is Pope Francis. As the head of the largest Christian denomination in the world, Pope Francis is in a unique position to speak to religious and government leaders about the growing persecution of Christians and other religious minorities. Pope Francis has reached out to his fellow Christians, to Muslims, to Jews, to Hindus and to all religious people of good will to collaborate in a united effort to stop the violent persecution of all religious minorities.
On June 14, 2013, Pope Francis met with Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury and discussed their common concern about the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and in Asia. When an attack on an Anglican church in Peshawar, Pakistan, left at least 85 people dead in September 2013, Pope Francis spoke out against anti-Christian persecution.
In December 2013, Pope Francis called for cooperation with Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople to protect religious freedom and to speak out for Christians who are being discriminated against and persecuted. The two leaders prayed in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in May 2014 for help for the persecuted Christians of the world.
In September 2013, Pope Francis wrote a letter to the Grand Imam of al-Azhar of Egypt, stressing Vatican’s respect for Islam and calling for mutual understanding between Christians and Muslims. The Pope met with Egypt’s Coptic Pope Tawadros to show his support of the Coptic Christians in Egypt.
During the Pope’s trip to the Middle East in May, Pope Francis shared with Muslim and Jewish leaders his concerns of the persecution of Christians in the area. He met with Christians in Israel and in the Palestinian areas and he encouraged them to perservere.
I admire Pope Francis’s efforts to help Christians and other religious minorities around the world who are facing horrible atrocities for their religious beliefs. Pope Francis is speaking out in defense of Christians without stereotyping all Muslims, Jews or Hindus for the actions of their extremists. He realizes that most Muslims, Jews, Hindus and other religious people want to live in peace and mutual respect with their Christian neighbors and deplore the persecution by the extremists in their religions. These Muslims, Jews and Hindus who have spoken out against Christian persecution have become themselves the targets of persecution of extremists and fundamentalists.
The problem is not religion. The problem is human nature and its vulnerability to extremism. Any time a group thinks they are the only ones who have the answers and feel threatened by disagreement, the group will persecute people who disagree with them. Christianity has had its own phases of extremism, where Christians have persecuted Jews, Muslims, atheists, and any group who disagreed. There is always a temptation of the majority to scapegoat and persecute the minority, and it is a temptation that must always be fought. Pope Francis has been wise enough to reach out to Muslims, Jews, Hindus and all religious people in common cause against the persecution of religious minorities.
During his trip in the Middle East, Pope Francis urged respect for religious freedom in Mideast and an end of persecution of Christians, saying they are “full citizens” with the right to be in the region
Pope Francis met with the delegation of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an American Jewish human rights group, and denounced anti-Semitism and the persecution of Christians
On March 2014 at a Mass at Santa Marta, Pope Francis talks about the persecution of Christians
On September 2013, Pope Francis condemned a suicide bombing attack on an Anglican church in Peshawar, Pakistan, and criticized the persecution of Christians in Pakistan
In November 2013, Pope Francis met with the Christian Patriarchs from Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt, offering them support in the face of widespread persecution of Christians in their countries
Pope Francis met with an Argentine interreligious group of 15 Jews, 15 Muslims and 15 Catholics, telling them “We have the same Father”
Pope Francis prayed for peace in the Middle East with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on June 8, 2014 in the Vatican
Prominent Christian leaders from across the ecumenical line joined together in Capitol Hill to speak out for religious communities who are being persecuted in Egypt, Iraq and Syria
The World’s War on Christianity by Robert J. Morgan for the Huffington Post
A “Call to Action” On Behalf of Middle East Christians Gets Fresh Impetus From Pope Francis by Joop Koopman for the Huffington Post
Pope sounds alarm on anti-Christian persecution by the Anglican Communion News Service
Pope Francis Slams Christian Persecution, Urges People To Speak Out Against Injustice by the Huffington Post
Christians must cooperate to help the persecuted Church, Pope tells Patriarch by Carol Glatz for the Catholic Herald
Pope Francis I and Egypt’s Tawadros II: A tale of two popes and preserving Mideast Christianity by Sean Savage for the Jewish News Service
Muslims Need To Speak Out Against Persecution by Imam Muhammad Musri for the Huffington Post
Persecution in China Is Very Real by Bob Fu for Christianity Today