Despite ever-increasing awareness of religious freedom atrocities around the world, gravely affecting the lives of millions of Christians and other minorities, there is a major problem — persecution is getting worse.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom noted such in its 2018 Annual Report, released in April, just weeks before Family Research Council President Tony Perkins was appointed as the bipartisan body's newest commissioner at the time.
Persecution watchdogs and humanitarian groups have deemed the rise in killings, imprisonment, torture, rape, and other crimes that religious minorities suffer around the world as unacceptable, but what can the United States and the Trump administration do differently to bring about real hope of improvement?
Plenty, according to Perkins, who participated in a June 15 phone interview with The Christian Post.
Perkins said that, in the face of worsening persecution gripping different regions and nations, President Donald Trump is taking unprecedented steps to prioritize religious freedom with other governments, and is actively bringing back America to its foundations of protecting minorities, no matter who and where they are.
As evidence, he pointed to Trump's recent meetings and talk on human rights with the leaders of countries where Christians, and other minorities, face extreme violence and persecution, such as Nigeria and North Korea.
CP: How big of a concern is it that the latest USCIRF report seems to recognize that awareness of persecution is rising, both in the public eye and by the government, and yet religious freedom abuses are worsening?
Perkins: That is true. I think, in part, the reason we have seen for this unprecedented rise in religious persecution, and not just in Christian persecution, is that our government has not placed a priority on religious freedom, either domestically at home with policies, or abroad. That is changing under the present administration.
Next month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is holding, to my knowledge, the first-ever ministerial calling-in for diplomats to discuss the importance of religious freedom. That is unprecedented. It is going to be widespread, it is going to be global; I think about 80 diplomats are being invited to this ministerial.
That will send the message that America is placing a priority, as it should, on religious freedom. I communicated with him (Pompeo) as he was taking over this post, and he said that religious freedom was going to be a priority.
So while I think that awareness will continue to grow, I think that what you will also see now is that there is going to be a decrease [in persecution]. I think it is going to take some time, but I think you are going to begin to see a growth in the respect and the understanding of religious freedom around the world.
In what the Christian Association of Nigeria is calling a "pure genocide," 238 more Christians were killed and churches desecrated by Muslims last week in the west African nation. This brings the death toll of Christians to more than 6,000 since the start of 2018.
According to a joint statement by the Christian Association, an umbrella group of various Christian denominations, "There is no doubt that the sole purpose of these attacks is aimed at ethnic cleansing, land grabbing and forceful ejection of the Christian natives from their ancestral land and heritage."
The statement condemned the recent attacks, "where over 200 persons were brutally killed and our churches destroyed without any intervention from security agencies in spite of several distress calls made to them."
The statement adds that the majority of those 6,000 Christians massacred this year were "mostly children, women and the aged... What is happening in ... Nigeria is pure genocide and must be stopped immediately."
We have seen and recoiled from the horrific footage of Coptic Christians beheaded by ISIS in 2015 in Libya and the repeated bombings over the past two decades of Coptic churches in Egypt. We read about the Maspero massacre in 2011, when Egyptian military tanks, deployed to protect peaceful Christian demonstrators, instead rolled over them, crushing many to death. And we continue to receive reports of Coptic girls abducted, compelled to convert to Islam and forced into marriages with Muslims.
Each time there is news of another act of hate-filled violence against the Copts, or other religious minorities, we shudder. When there are attacks against Yazidis in the Fertile Crescent, the Baha'is in Iran and Christians and Ahmadis in Pakistan, we ask how Muslims can affirm these crimes against humanity perpetrated under the banner of Islam.