PAUL ARCHULETA, ACLJ
Christians all around the world are facing extreme persecution. This month Open Doors, a non-profit organization monitoring Christian persecution across the globe, released their annual report listing the 50 countries where it is the most dangerous to be a Christian.
In a chilling fact, the report shows that 11 people are killed because of their faith in Christ each and every day. In fact, the number of Christians facing persecution around the world has increased by the tens of millions in the last year alone.
As part of our ongoing international legal advocacy campaign for the persecuted Church, we continue to engage with key members of the international community. At the U.N. Human Rights Council, we file written legal reports and deliver oral interventions detailing the plight of persecuted Christians around the world. We write letters to key U.S. officials and Heads of State urging action be taken to protect the right of Christians to peacefully assemble and practice their religion without fearing for their lives.
Below we have highlighted some of the countries on the list and the work we are doing to protect the lives of Christians living under immense persecution.
(#5) Pakistan: In Pakistan, Christians and other religious minorities are constantly under threat of mob violence, torture, accusations of blasphemy, rape, and murder. In addition to our affiliated office in Pakistan representing persecuted Christians directly in Pakistani courts, we have filed numerous written and oral interventions before the U.N. Human Rights Council urging that the international community work to protect the rights of Christians in Pakistan. Additionally, the ACLJ has advocated for the release of Asia Bibi who was arrested in 2009 for violating blasphemy laws and was sentenced to death by hanging. We supported Asia Bibi through advocating at the U.N., writing legal letters directly to Pakistan, and ramping up public pressure on the Pakistani government. Asia Bibi’s conviction was later overturned and her acquittal was upheld.
(#6) Sudan: In Sudan, Christians face continued harassment and even government crackdowns on churches where Christians are arrested and places of worship demolished. The government even actively prohibits Christians from peacefully sharing their beliefs with others, and punishes those who convert from Islam to Christianity. Meriam Ibrahim is a Sudanese Christian who was imprisoned because of her faith and was given the death penalty because she refused to renounce her faith. Our extensive advocacy campaign for Meriam Ibrahim helped support her eventual release, and she has since been allowed to come to the U.S. along with her family. We’ve also successfully advocated for the release of four Christian pastors in Sudan, and are continuing to monitor the government-led destruction of churches.
(#9) Iran: Being a Christian in Iran can be especially dangerous. The ACLJ has repeatedly advocated for Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who was originally arrested in 2009 and sentenced to die for “apostasy”. He spent nearly three years in prison before he was finally set free. In July of 2018, Pastor Youcef was arrested again and reportedly beaten at his home in front of his children. We are continuing to advocate for his release at the international level. Additionally, through our advocacy we were able to help secure the release of Pastor Saeed Abedini, an American pastor who was imprisoned for more than three years in Iran for sharing his faith. We are preparing a new written legal submission to the U.N. Human Rights Council for Pastor Youcef and other persecuted Christians in Iran.
(#11) Syria & (#13) Iraq: The ISIS genocide has resulted in a massive humanitarian crisis for Christians living in Iraq and Syria. As we have previously detailed, we vigorously advocated for the international community to take action to protect the victims and provide aid and justice. After years of pressuring the U.N. and contacting key world leaders, we saw the development and unanimous adoption of Security Council Resolution 2379 which called for the creation a special Investigative Team that is tasked with investigating the genocide that ISIS has committed against Christians in the region. That Investigative Team has since been created and has begun this critical work. We are continuing to advocate for Christians at the U.N. to ensure that they get the security and assistance needed so they can safely return to their homes. Our next submission is due in just weeks.
(#12) Nigeria: As we have detailed in our previous reports filed with the U.N. Human Rights Council, Christians in Nigeria face a large threat from Boko Haram and the Fulani herdsman. Christians are routinely the victims of religiously motivated attacks. Militants attack Christian farmers, destroy homes and churches, and even kidnap schoolgirls. One teen girl, Leah Sharibu, is currently being held captive by Boko Haram simply because she refuses to renounce her faith. We will continue to advocate at the international level for her release and on behalf of all Christians in Nigeria who face a daily threat of violence.
(#26) Turkey: Pastor Andrew Brunson, an American Pastor working in Turkey, was arrested and imprisoned for two years for his Christian faith. He was charged with the crime of “Christianization” which carried with it a 35-year prison sentence. For nearly two years, the ACLJ represented Pastor Brunson and worked tirelessly to secure his release by engaging with the U.N., the international community, and U.S. officials. In 2018, because of the support of hundreds of thousands of people, Pastor Brunson was finally released from prison and was eventually allowed to leave Turkey and return to his home and family in North Carolina.
(#27) China: The local officials in various provinces of China routinely raid the homes and churches of Christians who are seeking to peacefully practice their faith. More and more Christians are forced to practice their faith in secret. Pastor John Cao, a U.S. permanent resident, has lived his life reaching the people of Central and South China by establishing Bible schools that focus on education and mission work. In 2013 Pastor Cao began doing humanitarian work in (#18) Myanmar along the Chinese border. On March 5, 2017, Pastor Cao was taken into custody by Chinese authorities and falsely charged with organizing illegal border crossings. We are actively advocating for his immediate release by working with key U.S. government officials and at the U.N. to ensure that he is freed and returned to his family.
(#32) Nepal: The Nepali parliament passed a law criminalizing religious conversion as well as witnessing to others. This law means that Christians can be punished for publicly expressing their faith in Jesus. We took action by writing the Nepali government urging it to repeal these laws and protect the right to freely express one’s religion for all Nepalese citizens.
Another one of the key ways we are able to highlight these atrocities is through the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the U.N. We are able to submit reports detailing human rights abuses in a particular Member State that is up for review through our international affiliate with consultative status as a Non-Governmental-Organization with the U.N., the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ). We have used this process for years to highlight the status of Christians in particular Member States. Recently, we have filed UPR reports on (#23) Turkmenistan, (#15) Saudi Arabia, (#50) Azerbaijan, (#39) Mexico, and (#28) Ethiopia. We are also currently working on UPR reports for the countries of (#9) Iran, (#13) Iraq, (#16) Egypt, and (#34) Kazakhstan, which will be filed in March 2019.
We will continue to aggressively advocate on behalf of Christians all over the world who are facing persecution for practicing their faith. Your support is instrumental in providing support and protection for these persecuted Christians.
Stand with us and give a voice to the voiceless.
Used with the permission of the American Center for Law and Justice
Paul Archuleta is the Deputy Director of Government Affairs and Foreign Policy Analyst at the American Center for Law & Justice. As a member of the Government Affairs team in the ACLJ’s Washington, D.C. office, Paul focuses on international religious freedom, persecution of Christians abroad, and other relevant foreign policy issues. Paul received a Bachelor of Science in Public Policy and a Masters in International Affairs from Penn State. During college he interned in the United States House of Representatives and in grad school interned at the United States Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute at the Army War College.