In 2021, the Danube Institute launched a new podcast series titled Reflections from Budapest, in which we have had several thought-provoking discussions about religious conflict, religious violence, and reconciliation. As we wrote in a previous Hungarian Conservative article in the first episode in 2023, our guest was Juliana Taimoorazy, founder and president of the Iraqi Christian Relief Council, a leading international advocate and 2021 Nobel Peace Prize nominee, with whom we talked about the situation of Christian communities in Iraq. In the second episode of 2023, our guest was David Curry, president and CEO of Global Christian Relief, a commissioner on the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, and a leading international advocate for persecuted Christians. We had a two-part discussion with Mr Curry about the situation of Christians in the Middle East, Africa, and Europe.
Brother Andrew, God’s Smuggler
David Curry has been the CEO of the most well-known international ministry, Open Doors USA, for ten years. The organisation recently changed its name to Global Christian Relief to achieve better cooperation between Christian denominations and NGO networks, to help persecuted Christians more efficiently. The global network of Open Doors was started by Brother Andrew van der Bijl 50 years ago, who travelled throughout Eastern Europe from 1955 to 1967 to smuggle Bibles into the Soviet Union. Brother Andrew’s help was significant as the Soviet Union’s anti-religious policies made it difficult for Christians to practise their religion. Soon he realised that Christian communities were suffering from persecution in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East; therefore, the work of Open Doors spread out and became international.
As Brother Andrew passed away last October, Mr Curry reflected on his remarkable life. He explained that Brother Andrew wasn’t afraid to share his Christian faith and the Bible even with more radical Muslim leaders like the president of the Palestinian National Authority, Yasser Arafat. Brother Andrew published a book titled God’s Smuggler in 1967 which catapulted his work to worldwide renown and inspired people to start supporting Christians who faced persecution and discrimination for their faith.
400 Million Christians Live Under Severe Persecution
Mr Curry highlighted that Christianity is still the most persecuted religion in the world, as 400 million Christian believers live under severe persecution. He emphasised that a mass exodus from the Middle East is driven mainly by violence, discrimination, and extremism. Even though there are countries like Egypt where there is a strong Christian presence with almost 10 million believers, they still suffer from violence and discrimination at a community level by Muslim extremists. David Curry highlighted that Christians are persecuted in Egypt because false anti-Christian theologies that are taught in mosques and even in school textbooks take root in the minds of Muslim Egyptians from a young age. Mr Curry also touched on how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict impacts Christians in Israel and the West Bank. He noted that Christian Arabs in Israel and the West Bank are victims of the conflict and persecuted from both sides. He highlighted that for Christians, it’s important to support Israel, but at the same time, it’s also important to stand up against all kind of injustice. As Robert C. Castel mentioned it in a recent Hungarian Conservative interview, the situation of Christians in the West Bank is complicated because even though Islamic extremists persecute them, they publicly can only blame Israel for their plight without suffering some harm from the Palestinian Authority. Mr Curry emphasised that peaceful coexistence would only happen if Muslims practised their faith peacefully, without radicalising it and turning it into a political cause, and if Christians truly lived their faith as well.
Mr Curry also underlined that Christians are severely persecuted in several countries in the Sahel African region, in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, and Burkina Faso. He explained that 46 per cent of Nigeria’s Christian population is Christian, meaning that around 100,420,000 believers live in the country who have been facing intense persecution since 2012 by terrorist groups from northern Nigerian states governed by Sharia law.
As reported in a Hungarian Conservative article on 15 January, terrorists burnt Reverend Father Isaac Achi alive in his home and severely injured another priest in Nigeria’s Kafin-Koro village. A few hours later, terrorists carried out a separate attack on Christians in the northern Katsina state, where they shot a priest and abducted five people from their homes as they were preparing to go to Sunday mass. Despite the outrage of several senators, religious freedom organisations, and experts, the Biden administration didn’t include the country on the annual list of the worst countries in the world for religious freedom titled the ‘Country of Particular Concern’ list, neither in 2021 nor in 2022. Mr Curry also raised attention to this matter at the White House and highlighted that if things won’t change, Islam extremist groups will take over Sub-Saharan Africa, just like ISIS took over several Middle Eastern countries, which will tragically affect African Christians.
Rising Political Intolerance Against Christians in Europe
David Curry explained that there is rising political intolerance towards Christians in Europe, and as a result of mass immigration, radical Islamic and other extremist groups have come to the region and continue to engage in anti-Christian activities in violent forms, especially in refugee camps. However, he highlighted that it’s important to be thankful that Christians can still practice their religion freely in the West, and their situation can’t be compared to how severely Christians suffer in other parts of the world.
Mr Curry noted that Global Christian Relief focuses on telling individual stories of persecuted Christians who have suffered but remained faithful, as this way people can get to know the personal challenges and testimonies of persecuted Christians, be motivated by their courage, and become inspired to help them. He also called attention to the importance of dealing with the persecution of other religious groups. He highlighted that it is equally important to speak out against the suffering of the Uyghur Muslims held in concentration camps, noting that the Chinese government would treat the Christian population similarly if it did not number 100 million in the country. He also emphasised that the West is inconsistent in deciding which values they want to enforce and which values they overlook because of political interests. As a result, several Western governments are turning a blind eye to the suffering of more than 400 million persecuted Christians worldwide.
In March 2022, David Curry was invited to Hungary by the Danube Institute to be the keynote speaker at Danube Institute’s ‘Attacks on Christian Communities and Institutions’ preliminary conference. Mr Curry’s also had a meeting with Tristan Azbej, Hungary’s State Secretary in charge of aid to persecuted Christian communities, which started a cooperation between Open Doors USA (now renamed Global Christian Relief) and Hungary Helps Program.
You can listen to Part1 of the conversation with David Curry here, and Part 2 here.
In March 2022, David Curry was the keynote speaker at Danube Institute’s ‘Attacks on Christian Communities and Institutions’ preliminary conference. You can watch his full speech here.