“We are indeed living another age of martyrs,” reported an Italy-based Christian organization. "In at least 40 countries Christians have died a violent death for their beliefs. Martyrdom has gone global, touching all continents and all sorts of cultural environments. What is happening in Asia confirms the trend."
According to AsiaNews, the worst situations for Christians are found in Muslim countries. In Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, Christians are literally second-class citizens hampered by discriminatory practices. One such example is the case of Indian Catholic Brian Savio O’Connor who has been in prison in Riyadh for six months for allegedly “preaching Christianity.”
The agency reported this week that recent political changes at the top of India’s Union government have brought hope that the fate of Christians in the country might improve after years of repeated attacks by Hindu fundamentalists. However, more recent attacks in Orissa and other eastern Indian states leave little room for optimism.
In most of the eight predominantly-Buddhist countries of Asia, Christians face an uphill battle as well, according to the 2004 Aid to the Church in Need Report. Only Thailand affords substantial freedom to all religious denominations. In contrast, persecution in Vietnam reportedly aims toward every religion, including Buddhism. Between the two extremes final judgment is suspended, especially in countries like Sri Lanka (where parliament is debating an anti-conversion bill that would especially penalize Christians), Myanmar and Cambodia.
In Communist regimes public expression of religious faith is either heavily constrained by government interference or altogether banned.
In North Korea, Christianity is represented by small groups of mostly Protestant believers who have been frequently subjected to long stays in “re-education camps.” Owning a Bible is a crime punishable with relatively long sentences.
Meanwhile, in Laos, the government has been trying to make the country a Christian-free zone accusing Christianity of being a “foreign imperialist religion.”
In the People’s Republic of China religious rights are protected, but only on paper. In reality, rules and regulations governing the enforcement of such rights are open to arbitrary interpretations and effectively denied by overzealous government officials. Religious material is confiscated and “troublesome” figures (bishops, priests, laity) sent off to prison.
”Politicians should uphold the principle that freedom of religion is an inalienable right and not a privilege granted by a benevolent state,” wrote AsiaNews.
Of the top ten persecuted countries around the world, according to Open Door’s “World Watch List,” seven are located in Asia. The other three are located in the Middle East.