Pope Francis and leaders from the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) met last Thursday (14 December) in Rome to discuss further collaboration in promoting religious freedom in a world where persecution of Christians is on the rise.
The church leaders also talked about strengthening their partnership in Bible distribution and confronting social injustice issues, reports the Catholic news agency Zenit. WEA represents more than 600 million evangelical Christians in 129 countries.
Bishop Efraim Tendero, WEA General Secretary, admitted that there are theological differences but stressed it was more important to “look for a common agenda”. “We want to see this world to be a place where peace, justice and righteousness reign”, he said.
According to Rev. Thomas K. Johnson, WEA’s religious freedom ambassador to the Vatican, persecution of Christians is increasing, in particular in the last three years where the world has perhaps seen “the worst persecution in the whole history of the Christian Church”, reports Bosnewslife. He recalled “the important international consultation” that took place two years ago in the Albanian capital, Tirana, on “discrimination, persecution, and martyrdom.” Officials of the WEA, the Vatican, the World Council of Churches and the Pentecostal world discussed ways of responding to the problem “in a unified manner.”
According to the 2017 Open Doors World Watch List, which ranks the 50 countries in which it is most difficult to live as a Christian, in 2016 the worldwide persecution of Christians rose for the third year in a row. Open Doors International, which has supported global Christians under pressure for faith for over 60 years, also noted that Christians are being killed for their faith in a greater number of countries than ever before.
A report reviewing 2015, published by Pew Research Center in April, showed an increased intolerance towards religion by governments and societies alike.
Human rights lawyer Ewelina Ochab in an article for Forbes, suggested that it was time to be more proactive in response to the persecution of Christians – “the most persecuted religious group in the world”.