World News

Persecution hit new peak in 2015, says report

Footage of the execution of 21 Coptic Christians by ISIS-linked militants in Libya

Last year was the “worst year in modern history for Christian persecution”, according to a group that monitors violence against the faithful.

The 2016 World Watch List, drawn up by the charity Open Doors, found that North Korea was the most dangerous place to be a Christian for the second year running.

Of the 50 worst countries to be a Christian, 35 have a problem with Islamic extremism, which has “risen to a level akin to ethnic cleansing”, the report said. Iraq, part of which is in the hands of the Islamic extremist group ISIS, is number two on the list.

The other eight countries in the top 10 are all Islamic, with Afghanistan, Syria and Libya, all of whom are struggling with ISIS insurgents, at numbers four, five and 10 respectively. Pakistan, where Christian farmworker Asia Bibi is still in jail five years after being accused of blasphemy, is also in the top 10.

Among the worst atrocities last year was the murder by ISIS-linked militants of 21 mostly Egyptian Christians in Libya in September.

The report said that, in terms of the number of Christians killed, the persecution in sub-Saharan Africa “dwarfs what is happening in the Middle East”. In Nigeria, it said, both the Islamist group Boko Haram and a separate group, the Hausa-Fulani tribesmen, were “aiming to eradicate Christianity”.

In Eritrea, meanwhile, “the North Korea of Africa”, a totalitarian regime means that Christians are “desperate to escape”, even to the extent of risking their lives with traffickers.

Exorcism films exaggerate the Devil’s power, says priest

Films depicting exorcisms could be an important medium for showing how God always triumphs over evil, but instead they misrepresent the faith and exaggerate human and satanic powers over God, a leading exorcist has said.

Fr Francesco Bamonte, president of the International Association of Exorcists, wrote in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano that such films have accustomed people to recognising “the presence and extraordinary acts of demons in people’s lives and the battle that the Church faces against them”.

But, he said, “the way in which evil, demonic possession, the prayer of exorcism and liberation are presented is disappointing and unacceptable”.

Most films hide or ignore “the marvellous, stupendous presence and work of God” and the role of Mary in the battle against evil, wrote the priest. The films’ most serious error, he said, was in presenting life as a battle between two equal principles.

“Satan is not the god of evil against the God of the good, rather he is a being whom God created as good and who, with some angels … refused God and his kingdom with their free and final choice,” he said.

Pope: migrants are ‘sign of hope’

Pope Francis has welcomed several thousand migrants and refugees to the Vatican on Sunday to mark the World Day for Migrants and Refugees.

The Pontiff told migrants in a crowd in St Peter’s Square on Sunday: “Each of you carries a story, a culture, precious values; and unfortunately often experiences of poverty, oppression and fear … Your presence in this square is a sign of hope in God.”