As financial and food insecurity ravages much of the world in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Vietnam and Pakistan governments and aid agencies are denying food aid to disadvantaged minority Christians because of their faith, according to Open Doors, a ministry that monitors the persecution of Christians worldwide.
Vietnam, a Communist country, and Pakistan, an Islamic Republic, are among the world’s 50 most dangerous countries in which to be a Christian, according to the group’s 2019 watch list. Pakistan is ranked 5th on the list of the top 10 nations where “extreme persecution” of Christians is rife, behind North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia and Libya. Vietnam ranks 20th on the list, in a subcategory titled “very high persecution.”
In Vietnam, the government has denied food aid to 18 Christian families comprising 107 individuals, including children and the elderly, according to the report.
“You are Christians and your God shall take care of your family,” the report quoted government authorities as telling the Christians. “The government is not responsible for your families.”
The report added that the Christian families were poor and had no work because of pandemic-related lockdowns. “They strive to put food on their tables, and they consume their rice little by little every day,” the watchdog quoted an unidentified “local partner” in the area as saying. “When they learned that the government’s support was coming to their district, they were so happy—only to find out that they were not on the list because they are Christians.”
Vietnamese Christians suffer persecution at the hands of both government authorities and tribal leaders, Open Doors reports. “The government has some level of tolerance for Christian groups, particularly Catholics, but if any believers are deemed to be politically active, they can be imprisoned. In places where religion and ethnic identity are closely tied, Christians who convert from traditional religions are often victims of pressure and violence from their families and communities.”
Christians are beaten and driven out of their villages, the report adds, and their places of worship are stoned while meetings are underway inside. “Local and national government authorities persecute the Christian minority through their law, and Christian bloggers and political activists have been arrested and sentenced.”
In Pakistan, Christians are excluded from food distribution aid, according to a June 2 Vatican News report, which quoted a member of the Pakistan Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Cecil Shane Chaudhry, who spoke to the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.
Pakistan’s Christians are particularly vulnerable to the devastation the pandemic has caused because the crisis has “deprived them of their already meager livelihoods and forced them to live through the crisis in extremely cramped and overcrowded conditions with a minimum of resources,” said Chaudhry.
“Historic churches (like Anglican or Roman Catholic churches) have relative freedom for worship, but they are heavily monitored, and extremists regularly target them for attacks,” according to Open Doors. “Christian churches that are active in outreach and youth work face more persecution. In general, Christians are regarded as second-class citizens.”
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