RNS Press Release Service

Poll measures US Catholics’ perceptions of the global persecution of Christians

NEW YORK — According to a new poll, 46 percent of US Catholics say the global persecution of Christians is “very severe”—an increase of more than 16 percent compared to a year ago; and 58 percent of US Catholics say they are “very concerned” about the plight of their fellow faithful—a figure up by more than 17 percent from February 2018.

Yet, other global issues are cause of greater concern for US Catholics than the persecution of Christians: they rank human trafficking, poverty and the refugee crisis as more urgent problems than the persecution of Christians.

The annual nationwide poll examining the views of US Catholics on the global persecution of Christians was conducted by McLaughlin & Associates on behalf of Aid to the Church in Need-USA, an international papal agency that supports suffering and persecuted Christians in more than 140 countries. The survey aimed to measure:

  • The extent to which American Catholics are aware of the persecution of Christians around the world;
  • The countries and regions where they consider Christians to be most severely persecuted;
  • Specific measures and policies they want the US and other Western governments to pursue to help and protect persecuted Christians;
  • The extent to which they feel that the Pope, their bishops and their parishes are making the issue of the persecution of Christians a priority;
  • Actions they believe they can and should take themselves.

Asked to list the countries where they believe the persecution of Christians is most severe, US Catholics identify Iran, Iraq, Syria, China, North Korea, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia as the worst offenders.

A majority of US Catholics identify religion, along with ethnic tension, political rivalry and economic competition, as a key cause of conflict in the world.

Only 19 percent of US Catholics say their parish is very “involved” with the issue of global persecution of Christians—a drop of 18 percent from a year ago; and 22 percent of US Catholics say they are “unsure” about their parish’s involvement with the topic.

As to their local bishop speaking out on the persecution of Christians, only 24 percent of US Catholics believe their bishop is “very engaged”, down 8 percent from a year ago; 27 percent of US Catholics are unsure about their bishop’s involvement, and 14 percent say their bishop is “not engaged at all.”

More than half (51 percent) of US Catholics say Pope Francis is “very engaged” with the issue of the persecution of Christians, a figure up by 4 percent from a year ago. Only 14 percent of US Catholics say they are unsure about the Pope’s level of engagement.

Regarding potential policies by the US and other Western governments to deter the persecution of Christians, US Catholics say diplomatic pressure is most important, followed by economic sanctions; granting victims of persecution emergency asylum; and supporting persecuted Christian communities financially. US Catholics are least in favor of military intervention and the arming and training of persecuted Christians.

More than 60 percent of US Catholics say that the Church must play a hands-on role in providing emergency and humanitarian aid to persecuted Christians around the world.

When asked what they themselves should do to help persecuted Christians around the world, American Catholics ranked prayer highest, followed by raising awareness at the parish level; donating to agencies that work to support persecuted Christians; and contacting their Members of Congress. However, almost half of US Catholics have not donated in the past year to an organization that helps persecuted Christians.

“It is heartening to see that US Catholics have a growing awareness of and concern about the persecution of Christians,” said George Marlin, Chairman of ACNUSA, but he added “that it is telling that human trafficking, poverty and the refugee crisis get more attention from US Catholics than the persecution of Christians.”

Marlin continued: “The rise of ISIS and other jihadist groups in Iraq and Syria ripped apart the fabric of ancient Christian communities. Yet, our survey shows that even after eight years of a brutal war and terror in the region, US Catholics are still not fully aware of the magnitude of the suffering of Christians targeted with brutal repression and even genocide.”

According to Marlin, the survey “strongly suggests that the US Catholic Church, both at the parish and diocesan levels, should get more engaged with the global persecution of Christians around the world. There is a need to better inform and galvanize the faithful.”

He concluded: “There is an obligation to keep the spotlight on the seriousness and pervasiveness of Christian communities being persecuted around the world.”

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Please click here for complete poll results. For more information, please contact:

Joop Koopman, Director of Communications
Aid to the Church in Need-USA
917 608 1989
[email protected]

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