WORLDWIDE – This Easter, Christians worldwide are fighting not just COVID-19 but persecution too

Religion Unplugged | Lela Gilbert and Arielle Del Turco | April 12, 2020

Just a year ago on Easter Sunday 2019, at precisely 8:45 a.m., the clock on St. Anthony’s Shrine in Columbo, Sri Lanka stopped keeping time. A terrorist’s bomb struck the church at that precise moment, one of six jihadi attacks targeting Christian worshippers across the city. Reports were grim:

Suicide bombings hit three Christian churches and three upscale hotels in the Indian Ocean island nation of Sri Lanka…The death toll in the attacks rose to 290, with about 500 people wounded…”

The world has changed profoundly since that terrible Easter morning just a year ago, and not for the better. COVID-19 has descended like a poisonous cloud across the globe, preventing worshippers on every continent from gathering to celebrate the most joyous of all Christian holidays. And the shadow of Christian persecution has intensified even more dramatically in just a year’s time.

Just across the water from Sri Lanka, India’s Christians are regularly targeted for violent attacks by mobs inspired by the Hindu nationalist movement which teaches India is a nation for Hindus and provides not help the justice system. In March, when a group of Christians who were providing food to the poor, they were physically attacked by a Hindu extremist. And it was the Christians, not the perpetrator of the attack, who were taken into custody.

At least one piece of good news came out of Pakistan this year. Asia Bibi, a now-famous Pakistani Christian mother who was sentenced to death row for blasphemy, finally made it to freedom in the West. Yet, the problem of blasphemy laws remain. As of May 2019, more than 200 Christians were imprisoned of charges of insulting Islam or its Prophet.

In the Middle East, some Christians are suffering extreme persecution as well as being endangered in by extreme threats of COVID-19 infections.

Iran continues to be a hotbed of anti-Christian abuses, particularly targeting Evangelicals and – most of all – Muslim-background believers who have converted to Christianity from Islam. These women and men meet in secret, underground house churches. Yet many are deeply motivated to share their faith with others, which too often leads to arrest and, eventually imprisonment. And no one is more at risk of COVID-19 infection than prisoners in Iran’s filthy, overcrowded prisons.