The Christians of Iraq ‘may again face martyrdom’

KHALIS AYSHOA is a former Member of the Iraqi Parliament (2010-2014), where he served as head of the Popular Chaldean Syriac Assyrian Council. A Syriac Catholic and native of Qaraqosh,  on the Nineveh Plains, he is former chief engineer at the Ministry of Construction and Housing. He spoke with Aid to the Church in Need about the situation of Christians in northern Iraq:

“Iraqi Christians have been subjected to various types of marginalization, persecution, displacement and killing throughout history. Most recently that was the case when ISIS occupied northern Iraq and committed genocide, beginning in 2014. That was the conclusion of research by the Shlomo Organization for Documentation, which I headed, and which documented crimes against the Christian minority. The report was published June 1, 2017.

Khalis Ayshoa
Khalis Ayshoa

“The Nineveh Plain is a region of diverse religions and nationalities. After the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 and the rise of radical Islam and the growth of Iran-backed Shiite militias, non-Muslim minorities found themselves in a weak position. Extremist Islam began to focus on these minorities, including Christians and Yazidis, and began a process of marginalization, calling them infidels. Greed for these minorities’ historical lands triggered the process of demographic change, killing, kidnapping and threats.

“Terrorist militias killed more than 1,200 Christians between 2003 and 2014, in addition to targeting more than 147 churches in Iraq. Some of the countries neighboring Iraq support such terrorist acts; then there is the ongoing presence of Iran-backed militias that pose a danger to the future of the minorities, and Christian militias cannot turn the tide.

“The international community, the World Council of Churches, the Vatican, and everyone interested in continued presence of Christians in Iraq must move quickly to ensure that the requirements for their existence and safety are met. Otherwise, a dangerous situation will persist, and Christians may again face martyrdom.

“The most important actions that will encourage Christians to stay here are as follows:
1- Rebuilding the region and providing basic services through the contributions of the international community in coordination with the Iraqi government.

2- Stopping the policy of demographic change in Christian areas, with Muslims pushing out Christians.

3- Changing laws and regulations in force in Iraq that negatively affect the religious freedom and dignity of the Christian people.

4- Pressuring the Iraqi government to reconsider school curricula in Iraq to acknowledge and define the existence of the Iraqi pluriform national religious culture, history and identity.

5- Supporting the creation of small and medium-size enterprises for the purpose of employing inhabitants of the Nineveh Plains.

“Success on these fronts depends on the extent of external cooperation with Iraq and the pressure on the government here, but I hope it will happen. Among world leaders, I have most confidence in President Trump. The US Administration is the one who serves the interests of the Iraqi people because it is a decision-maker. We have tried with the Europeans before; they are sympathetic, but not decisive.

—Ragheb Elias Shaba


The ‘slippery slope’ is real, says Dutch euthanasia doctor

‘Every time a line was drawn, it was also pushed back.’

“Anti-euthanasia lobbyists want the public to believe in the inevitability of the slippery slope, but their fears are unwarranted, wrote a Canadian doctor earlier this year.

Where better to test this than the Netherlands?

In 2019, according to the official figures, there were 6,361 cases of euthanasia – 4.2 percent of all deaths. In other words, one out of 25 people are killed by doctors in the Netherlands. And those are just the official figures. It is widely accepted that a good number of euthanasia deaths are not reported, mostly because doctors don’t like the extra paperwork involved.

How do Dutch euthanasia doctors feel about this?

Pretty good, actually.

Writing in the NTGV, the Dutch Medical Association Journal, Dr Bert Keizer reflects on the history of Dutch euthanasia. Somewhat surprisingly, he endorses the notion that euthanasia is a “slippery slope”. Better said, he embraces it.

Dr Keizer is a Grand Old Man of Dutch euthanasia. A philosopher and a geriatrician, he now works for Expertisecentrum Euthanasie, the new name for Levenseindekliniek(the End of Life Clinic). It was born as a project of the NVVE, the Dutch Right to Die Society. He writes:

“After the turn of the [last] century, what our British colleagues had predicted years earlier with unconcealed complacency happened: those who embark on euthanasia venture down a slippery slope along which you irrevocably slide down to the random killing of defenceless sick people.”

This does not upset him too much. In his eyes, expanding the criteria for euthanasia eligibility is the path of progress. After all, it happened with abortion, too.

“With every limit we set ourselves, there is the possibility to cross it. This also applies in the peripheral areas of ethical conduct. Abortion was once not allowed, then hardly, then until 12 weeks and now even up to 20 weeks. That ‘even’ says it all. Something similar is now underway in the field of human embryo research, where we are starting to leave the ‘never’ stage.”

He describes the progress of euthanasia in the Netherlands.

“And so it was with euthanasia. Every time a line was drawn, it was also pushed back. We started with the terminally ill, but also among the chronically ill it turned out to be hopeless and unbearable suffering. Subsequently, people with incipient dementia, psychiatric patients, people with advanced dementia, (high) elderly who struggled with an accumulation of old-age complaints and finally (high) elderly who, although not suffering from a disabling or limiting disease, still find that their life no longer has content. The unfortunate term ‘completed life’ was used for the problem of the latter group.”

What Dr Keizer has witnessed in his long career is the gradual but inevitable change in what doctors are willing to do for their patients. Perhaps “slippery slope” sounds too harsh, because it evokes the image of a headlong tumble down a cliff. He prefers to think of it as a gradual erosion of boundaries.

“In retrospect, it is true that we now provide euthanasia to people to whom we had said, a little indignantly, 20 years ago, ‘Come on, that is really impossible’. And looking ahead, there is no reason to believe that this process will stop in case of incapacitated dementia. What about the prisoner who has a life sentence and desperately longs for death? Or doubly disabled children who, although institutionalized, suffer unbearably and hopelessly according to their parents as a result of self-harm? I don’t believe we are on a slippery slope, in the sense of heading for disaster. Rather, it is a shift that is not catastrophic, but it does require that we continue to get involved as a community.”

This passage from Dr Keizer’s article suggests that the two sides of the euthanasia debate have zeroed in on the wrong word. Instead of arguing about whether a slippery slope exists – because they agree on that — they should focus on the meaning of “disaster”.

Obviously, if one takes the nihilistic view that death is a good thing, the more euthanasia, the better.

Michael Cook Michael Cook is the editor of MercatorNet

Babies on demand: the nasty side of surrogacy

One agency shows a smiling blonde wearing a T-shirt captioned ‘I grow cute babies’

August 7, 2020

Could possession of the Bible become an offence in Scotland?

The new Hate Crime Bill will make criminals of us all

” alt=”Could possession of the Bible become an offence in Scotland?” /> iStock

For the Scottish National party, the phrase ‘nanny state’ is not so much a criticism as an aspiration. This is the party that wanted to assign a state guardian to every child born in Scotland through its ‘named person’ scheme, only to be thwarted by the Supreme Court. Under Nicola Sturgeon’s leadership, there have been repeated attempts to regulate the eating and drinking habits of people, including proposed bans on two-for-one pizza deals and minimum pricing on cheaper alcoholic drinks.

It makes sense, then, that the party’s paternalism should extend to the question of free speech. Scotland’s new Hate Crime and Public Order Bill was ostensibly proposed to repeal outdated proscriptions against blasphemy, but will instead usher in a range of new blasphemy laws by stealth. Most controversially, part two of the Bill pertains to the offence of ‘stirring up hatred’, which criminalises anyone who ‘behaves in a threatening, abusive or insulting manner’ or ‘communicates threatening, abusive or insulting material to another person’.

Moreover, the Bill explicitly allows for intention to be put aside. If behaviour or material is ‘likely’ to stir up hatred against any protected groups (defined by age, disability, racial or ethnic identity, sexual orientation, transgender identity or ‘variations in sex characteristics’) then whether or not the perpetrator intended to do so is immaterial. Even an actor playing a bigoted character could be prosecuted under the proposed laws. An entire section of the Bill is devoted to the ‘public performance of a play’, which specifies that actors and directors can be found culpable if members of protected groups find the material offensive. So if you are troubled by the anti-Semitism of Shylock’s detractors, or the Islamophobia of Tamburlaine’s decision to burn the Quran, you can complain to the Scottish police. Next year’s Edinburgh Festival should be interesting.

The implications for stand-up comedy are similarly dire. As practitioners of an art form that often teases the limits of public tolerance, comedians frequently find themselves involved in free speech battles. The dean of the Faculty of Advocates, Roddy Dunlop QC, has already warned that stand-up would not be exempt from the SNP’s Bill, and that even an old-fashioned ‘Scotsman, Irishman and Englishman’ joke may be perceived as discriminatory. Certainly, some of the more subversive acts that regularly appear at Comedy Unleashed, a night I co-founded in London, would be at risk of prosecution should they venture north of the border.

The Bill even goes as far as to criminalise the possession of ‘inflammatory’ material, which is why senior Catholic bishops have raised concerns that possession of the Bible could become a criminal offence. Let’s not forget that Leviticus 20:13 calls for the execution of gay men.

In a statement that out-Donald-Trumps Donald Trump, the SNP’s Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf has asserted that the Bill ‘does not undermine free speech’, but rather ‘protects it’. Given that this Bill could see those found guilty of ‘insulting’ behaviour imprisoned for seven years, Yousaf’s claim is at once hilarious and disturbing.

‘The Bill does not seek to stifle criticism or rigorous debate in any way,’ writes Yousaf. ‘People will still be able to express controversial, challenging or even offensive views as long as this is not done in a threatening or abusive way that is intended to stir up hatred or likely to stir up hatred.’ None of which addresses the problem of how such vague legislation is apt to be interpreted. In accordance with all official law enforcement guidance in the UK, the website for Police Scotland defines an incident or crime as ‘hateful’ based on the perception of the ‘victim’ (Newspeak for ‘complainant’). If hatred is a matter of perception and not intent, and even the context of dramatic representation is considered irrelevant, how can we possibly safeguard against the abuse of state power?

We must always be vigilant against the introduction of legislation when couched in such vague terms. Yousaf’s stated conviction that ‘free speech itself is never an unfettered right’ strongly suggests that the Bill’s ambiguity is no accident. Even the Scottish Police Federation has warned that its effects would be tantamount to the ‘policing of what people think or feel’, and the Law Society of Scotland had called it a ‘significant threat to freedom of expressions’. That the SNP seem determined to ignore these objections may not be particularly surprising, but it should be a matter of uttermost concern for those of us who still believe in the preservation of liberal values.

China seizes children from Christian parents, threatens to send kids to re-education camps

Early Rain Covenant Church in China | Facebook/Early Rain Covenant Church

A member of China’s Early Rain Covenant Church says the Chinese Communist Party continues to persecute members of the church by threatening to send their children to government re-education camps or forcibly remove adopted children from their parents.

In a video released Wednesday alongside a new report by International Christian Concern, Liao Qiang, a member of ERCC in Chengdu, said that despite shuttering the church and jailing Pastor Wang Yi in December of 2018, the CCP continues to harass its members.

Qiang said in the video accompanying ICC’s new report on Religious Suppression in China that his family was forced to leave China and flee to Taiwan with his extended family “because the Chinese Communist Party is limitless in its persecution.”

“They not only threatened us, normal adult, normal church members, but they threatened our children,” Qiang said. “Some of our members have adopted children, and CPC forcibly sent the adoptive children back to the original family. That is the main reason why we fled China. Because we can’t guarantee our adopted child would not be taken away by them.”

Communist officials removed four adopted children from one ERCC family, returned them to their biological parents and eventually dispersed them among other homes, Qiang said.

“This is a living tragedy,” Qiang said. “Their constant oppression made me feel we must flee China, because our children are most important to us.”

An earlier report from ICC documented authorities’ forced removal of children from the home of church members Pei Wenju and Jing Jianan. CCP officials told them their adoption papers were no longer valid because their children were “trapped by an evil religion.”

In addition to seizing children from their Christian parents, the CCP also threatened to send Christian children to government re-education camps and ordered parents to refrain from enrolling their children in church schools, Qiang said.

Qiang called on U.S. media to report on the oppression of religious minorities occurring across China. Transparency, he said, is one of the communist regime’s greatest threats.

“The biggest help is to report the persecution. Report it fairly. We aren’t saying the U.S. government should put pressure on the Chinese government. This isn’t what we hope for,” Qiang said. “What CPC is most afraid of is being exposed. They are afraid of transparency. We don’t want the government or the public to pressure CPC. Because under such circumstances, CPC will definitely intensify religious persecution. The worse China-U.S. relations get, the more CPC persecutes Christians.”

According to Qiang, China continues to persecute Christians to gain leverage in future diplomatic relations with the U.S. He added that the CCP “makes you think that they are willing to compromise, because they know Americans care about freedom of religion. If China makes a concession in religious freedom, then U.S. should compromise in trade.”

“It’s CPC who politicizes religious freedom, not Christians,” he stressed.

Gina Goh, ICC’s regional manager for Southeast Asia and the author of the report, explained that Christians like Qiang are hesitant to ask the U.S. for intervention because doing so would likely invite further governmental persecution.

“Even receiving interviews in Taiwan, [Qiang’s] family was harassed by the government,” she said, according to Baptist Press. “You can imagine if they stand out and say, ‘We want the U.S. government to do something for us,’ that would probably invite more persecution. But I don’t think that contradicts with other people’s efforts to try to do things on behalf of them.

“I think that’s all the more reason for us to actually speak on behalf of them, because they are not in a position to openly condemn or actually invite sanctions or punishment upon their government.”

The ICC report documents how the CCP routinely targets Christians through its legal framework, Sinicization, closure or demolition of churches or places of worship, arresting of Christians, and social pressure.

Such persecution is part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s efforts to stamp out religion and enforce greater control over people’s lives.

“With the intensified crackdown against churches, both state-sanctioned and underground, there is no longer a safe place to be a Christian in China,” Goh wrote in the report.

She said that while “almost every province in China has seen Christian persecution on the rise” Henan and Anhui provinces in particular “have a high percentage of Christians,” and have seen active “cross demolition campaigns.”

“Thousands of crosses have been removed since 2018, with some churches leveled to the ground,” Goh wrote. “Deteriorating Sino-U.S. relations could further encourage crackdown against churches in 2020.”

Still, the report includes a note of optimism, noting that “history has shown that Beijing’s attempt to control religion with a growing number of unlawful regulations will prove unsuccessful. Like Christianity in North Korea, persecution may force believers underground, but it can never eradicate the faith itself.”

On Thursday, Save the Persecuted Christians, a leading international human rights advocacy group, delivered an open letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr asking him to designate the CCP as a “transnational criminal organization,” which the FBI defines as posing “a significant and growing threat to national and international security with dire implications for public safety, public health, democratic institutions, and economic stability across the globe.”

“For far too long, the world blindly ignored the menacing criminality of the Chinese Communist Party,” said Liz Yore, founder of YoreChildren and partner of Save the Persecuted Christians.

“The Trump Administration is rightly taking a tough stance against the unrelenting corruption and repression of the CCP. It is time that we speak the truth and call out the CCP in all its brutality. The CCP is a transnational criminal organization, and the Trump Administration needs to designate it as such, so that the full prosecutorial power of the federal government can outlaw these global gangsters. As Secretary of State Mike Pompeo promised, ‘we won’t stay still while Communist China tries to crush the world’s freedoms.’”

Open Doors USA ranks China at No. 23 on its 2020 World Watch List of the 50 most dangerous countries for Christians.


Catholics fear hate crime law will criminalise the Bible

The Catholic Church says people could be punished for expressing views on same-sex marriage
The Catholic Church says people could be punished for expressing views on same-sex marriage

Christians risk being criminalised for quoting passages of the Bible if new proposed hate crime legislation is passed, the Scottish Catholic Church has warned.

New legislation which is making its way through Holyrood would make “stirring up hatred” against certain groups a criminal offence.

The proposals have provoked a backlash amid fears they could lead to people being charged over comments perceived to be offensive even if that was not the intention.

Anthony Horan, director of the Catholic Parliamentary Office, said that it could clog up the courts, stifle freedom of expression and enshrine a damaging “cancel culture”.

He also claimed that Christians fear they could end up in the dock for expressing Biblical views on same-sex marriage or opposing plans to make it easier.

Continue reading:

Supreme Court Imperils Parents’ Right to Pass Their Values on to Children

The Supreme Court’s ruling in Bostock v. Clayton will make it even more difficult for parents to educate their children in line with their values. (Photo: fizkes/Getty Images)

The Supreme Court’s recent decision in Bostock v. Clayton, which ruled that the Title VII prohibition on sex discrimination in employment extends to discrimination based on sexual orientation and transgender status, is likely to have more widespread implications than many people realize.

Many (including Justice Samuel Alito in his scathing dissent) warn that the ruling may undermine religious freedom and freedom of speech, as well as women’s athletics and women’s privacy in bathrooms and lockers rooms. Yet few have considered how Bostock may imperil the fundamental right of parents to educate their children in line with their values.

The current culture already makes it difficult for parents to teach their children that, for instance, maleness and femaleness are grounded on objective biological reality rather than subjective self-perceptions, or that the purpose of human sexuality is not ultimately pleasure or self-expression, but to unite a man and woman in marriage and enable them to form a family.

And whatever one’s beliefs about these issues, parents, not the state, should be the ones to decide what their children are taught about these controversial and sensitive matters.

How are socialists deluding a whole generation? Learn more now >>

Many parents who seek to pass on a traditional understanding of sexuality send their children to private or religious schools where these values will be taught and modeled—or at least not directly undermined, as they are in an increasing number of public schools. But will private and religious schools be able to teach and model these traditional understandings of sexuality in the wake of Bostock?

What happens when the first-grade teacher Ms. Clark announces that she is transgender and henceforth expects to be treated as Mr. Clark? According to Bostock, a school that fires Ms. Clark because her gender transition will confuse students and undermine the school’s mission would violate Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination.

A religious school might be protected by Title VII’s exemption allowing religious institutions to make hiring decisions on the basis of religion, or by the Hosanna-Tabor ruling’s “ministerial exception,” which protects the right of religious institutions to choose their own ministers.

The Bostock decision, however, doesn’t help matters.

Thankfully, the Supreme Court just strengthened the ministerial exception in Our Lady of Guadalupe v. Morrissey Berru, offering a broad interpretation of who counts as a “minister” that likely extends to any teacher, and perhaps even other employees.

But schools will have to fight for these protections in court when challenged, and the fight itself will be punishing. Further, what about private nonreligious schools that are not eligible for these exemptions?

LGBT activists will also seek to get courts to apply Bostock’s expansive redefinition of the meaning of sex discrimination to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any school or educational program that receives federal financial assistance.

Justice Neil Gorsuch’s majority opinion explicitly declines to address questions about bathrooms, locker rooms, women’s sports, and so on. But the logic of Bostock implies that it would violate Title IX, for example, to prevent a student with male anatomy who identifies as female from changing and showering in the girls locker room or competing on the girls track team.

These implications of Bostock’s logic could also affect the many private and religious schools that receive federal financial support indirectly through states and school districts that fund things like busing, textbooks, or free meals for low-income students.

If a second-grade boy at a Catholic school declares himself to be a girl and wants teachers and other students to treat him as such, will the school be forced to comply to avoid a lawsuit, regardless of whether this contradicts the school’s religious teachings?

If, as is plausible, the answer to that question is yes, a growing number of parents will have no choice but to send their children into an educational environment that may sow profound confusion about the basic truths of human identity.

Further, insofar as Bostock is interpreted (perhaps mistakenly) as affirming that sex is determined by a person’s inner sense of gender identity rather than by biology, parents of gender-confused children may find themselves unable to protect their children from the “gender-affirming” path of social transition, puberty blockers, and eventually cross-sex hormones and surgery.

Never mind that the vast majority of gender-confused children naturally come to accept their biological sex if allowed to undergo puberty, or that the “gender-affirming” path has not been proven to resolve gender dysphoria in the long run, and results in permanent loss of fertility and serious long-term health risks.

Such arguments were of no avail to the Ohio parents who lost custody of their teenage daughter because they would not allow her to begin hormone treatments to transition to a male gender identity. The combined legal and cultural impact of Bostock threatens to make such tragic cases increasingly common.

The dangers of Bostock for parental rights are grave, but not entirely unavoidable. To avert these dangers, we need to take proactive steps to prepare for the challenges to come.

Specifically, it is now more crucial than ever to oppose state and federal legislation like the Equality Act, which would further undermine the freedom of private and religious schools to hire in line with their mission and values, and mandate admittance to single-sex facilities and sports based on gender identity.

Such legislation could even lead to court-mandated curricula promoting radical views of gender and sexuality in all public schools.

Parents and all concerned citizens should tell their elected officials they want laws clarifying that single-sex sports and private facilities do not constitute discrimination, but rather are essential to maintain fairness and protect student privacy and safety.


Religious Freedom is ‘Foremost’ in Unalienable Rights, US Commission Reports

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo alongside Mary Ann Glendon of the Commission on Unalienable Rights during a press conference in July, 2019.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo alongside Mary Ann Glendon of the Commission on Unalienable Rights during a press conference in July, 2019. (Wikimedia (CC BY 3.0).)
NATION |  JUL. 17, 2020
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo explained the need for the commission on Thursday, noting that an increase in the number of recognized human rights presents “risks of collision” between rights claims, as well as “risks of trivializing core American values.”

WASHINGTON — A draft report from an advisory body to the U.S. State Department on human rights says that religious freedom is “foremost” among human rights.

“Foremost among the unalienable rights that government is established to secure, from the founders’ point of view, are property rights and religious liberty,” stated the draft report of the Commission on Unalienable Rights, released on July 16.

“A political society that destroys the possibility of either loses its legitimacy.”

The commission was established last July by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who announced that Mary Ann Glendon, former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, would lead it.

Pompeo explained the need for the commission on Thursday, noting that an increase in the number of recognized human rights presents “risks of collision” between rights claims, as well as “risks of trivializing core American values.” In his time at the State Department, he said, as cables from around the world came in he realized officials were discussing rights in ways that were “deeply inconsistent.”

Last year, Pompeo charged the commission with studying the nature and historical foundations of human rights, with the hope that it would be part of “one of the most profound reexaminations of the unalienable rights in the world since the 1948 Declaration.”

On Thursday, the commission released its report at an event in Philadelphia, with Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York offering the invocation.

God has “bestowed upon and ingrained into the very nature of his creatures certain inalienable rights enshrined by the founders,” Dolan said, noting that they are “rights flowing from the innate dignity of the person,” are “self-evident in reason and nature,” and are “celebrated” in Divine Revelation.

Dolan asked God’s blessing “upon this noble project” of the commission, “as we renew our sense of duty to share our country’s wisdom on rights inherent to the very nature of the human person, never, ever to be trampled.”

Glendon, introducing the report, noted various threats to human rights around the world, especially China “aggressively promoting a very different concept” of rights that puts “national priorities” over freedoms of speech and assembly, and free elections. She also pointed out recent technological advances that pose threats to human rights, such as artificial intelligence, data collection, and surveillance techniques.

Pompeo explained his hope that the tradition of rights outlined in the report could be used to give other countries the “courage” to speak up when authoritarian regimes abuse their own citizens.

Some critics of the commission, following its creation, alleged that it would emphasize rights such as religious freedom at the expense of other rights such as women’s rights or LGBTQ advocacy.

On Thursday, one senior administration official said it was “disturbing” how many human rights experts claim that focusing on religious freedom means a “deviation” from U.S. foreign policy priorities, or draws attention away from other human rights.

Today, religious freedom advocates are criticized as theocrats, the official said, but “those who seek toleration” shouldn’t be confused with “religious fanaticism.”

“To the extent that the United States” is successful in promoting religious freedom, the other freedoms “will be vindicated” too, the official said.

In addition to Glendon, commission members included Notre Dame Law professor Paolo Carozza; Katrina Lantos Swett, former chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom; and philosopher Christopher Tollefsen.

On Thursday, Pompeo expounded upon the findings of the commission, noting that its emphasis on religious freedom underlines that “no society can retain its legitimate or a virtuous character without religious freedom.”

The current unrest, with mass anti-racism protests occurring around the country, is connected to America’s very ability to put its founding ideals into practice, he said.

The U.S. “fell far short” of its ideals with chattel slavery being the “gravest departure,” he said, along with expelling Native Americans from their land.

However, he noted, the founding principles gave a standard and framework to abolish slavery and codify equality in law.


Fertility rate: ‘Jaw-dropping’ global crash in children being born

NewbornImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

The world is ill-prepared for the global crash in children being born which is set to have a “jaw-dropping” impact on societies, say researchers.

Falling fertility rates mean nearly every country could have shrinking populations by the end of the century.

And 23 nations – including Spain and Japan – are expected to see their populations halve by 2100.

Countries will also age dramatically, with as many people turning 80 as there are being born.

What is going on?

The fertility rate – the average number of children a woman gives birth to – is falling.

If the number falls below approximately 2.1, then the size of the population starts to fall.

In 1950, women were having an average of 4.7 children in their lifetime.

Researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation showed the global fertility rate nearly halved to 2.4 in 2017 – and their study, published in the Lancet, projects it will fall below 1.7 by 2100.

Graph of number of children women have

As a result, the researchers expect the number of people on the planet to peak at 9.7 billion around 2064, before falling down to 8.8 billion by the end of the century.

“That’s a pretty big thing; most of the world is transitioning into natural population decline,” researcher Prof Christopher Murray told the BBC.

“I think it’s incredibly hard to think this through and recognise how big a thing this is; it’s extraordinary, we’ll have to reorganise societies.”

Why are fertility rates falling?

It has nothing to do with sperm counts or the usual things that come to mind when discussing fertility.

Instead it is being driven by more women in education and work, as well as greater access to contraception, leading to women choosing to have fewer children.

In many ways, falling fertility rates are a success story.

Which countries will be most affected?

Japan’s population is projected to fall from a peak of 128 million in 2017 to less than 53 million by the end of the century.

Italy is expected to see an equally dramatic population crash from 61 million to 28 million over the same timeframe.

They are two of 23 countries – which also include Spain, Portugal, Thailand and South Korea – expected to see their population more than halve.

“That is jaw-dropping,” Prof Christopher Murray told me.

China, currently the most populous nation in the world, is expected to peak at 1.4 billion in four years’ time before nearly halving to 732 million by 2100. India will take its place.

The UK is predicted to peak at 75 million in 2063, and fall to 71 million by 2100.

Graph of population sizesImage copyrightBBC SPORT

However, this will be a truly global issue, with 183 out of 195 countries having a fertility rate below the replacement level.

Why is this a problem?

You might think this is great for the environment. A smaller population would reduce carbon emissions as well as deforestation for farmland.

“That would be true except for the inverted age structure (more old people than young people) and all the uniformly negative consequences of an inverted age structure,” says Prof Murray.

Baby and granddadImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionThe world faces a shift from young to old

The study projects:

  • The number of under-fives will fall from 681 million in 2017 to 401 million in 2100.
  • The number of over 80-year-olds will soar from 141 million in 2017 to 866 million in 2100.

Prof Murray adds: “It will create enormous social change. It makes me worried because I have an eight-year-old daughter and I wonder what the world will be like.”

Who pays tax in a massively aged world? Who pays for healthcare for the elderly? Who looks after the elderly? Will people still be able to retire from work?

“We need a soft landing,” argues Prof Murray.

Are there any solutions?

Countries, including the UK, have used migration to boost their population and compensate for falling fertility rates.

However, this stops being the answer once nearly every country’s population is shrinking.

“We will go from the period where it’s a choice to open borders, or not, to frank competition for migrants, as there won’t be enough,” argues Prof Murray.

Some countries have tried policies such as enhanced maternity and paternity leave, free childcare, financial incentives and extra employment rights, but there is no clear answer.

Sweden has dragged its fertility rate up from 1.7 to 1.9, but other countries that have put significant effort into tackling the “baby bust” have struggled. Singapore still has a fertility rate of around 1.3.

Prof Murray says: “I find people laugh it off; they can’t imagine it could be true, they think women will just decide to have more kids.

“If you can’t [find a solution] then eventually the species disappears, but that’s a few centuries away.”

The researchers warn against undoing the progress on women’s education and access to contraception.

Prof Stein Emil Vollset said: “Responding to population decline is likely to become an overriding policy concern in many nations, but must not compromise efforts to enhance women’s reproductive health or progress on women’s rights.”

What about Africa?

The population of sub-Saharan Africa is expected to treble in size to more than three billion people by 2100.

And the study says Nigeria will become the world’s second biggest country, with a population of 791 million.

Prof Murray says: “We will have many more people of African descent in many more countries as we go through this.

“Global recognition of the challenges around racism are going to be all the more critical if there are large numbers of people of African descent in many countries.”

Why is 2.1 the fertility rate threshold?

You might think the number should be 2.0 – two parents have two children, so the population stays the same size.

But even with the best healthcare, not all children survive to adulthood. Also, babies are ever so slightly more likely to be male. It means the replacement figure is 2.1 in developed countries.

Nations with higher childhood mortality also need a higher fertility rate.

What do the experts say?

Prof Ibrahim Abubakar, University College London (UCL), said: “If these predictions are even half accurate, migration will become a necessity for all nations and not an option.

“To be successful we need a fundamental rethink of global politics.

“The distribution of working-age populations will be crucial to whether humanity prospers or withers.”


1,202 Nigerian Christians killed in first 6 months of 2020: NGO report

Christians faithfuls hold signs as they march on the streets of Abuja during a prayer and penance for peace and security in Nigeria in Abuja on March 1, 2020. The Catholic Bishops of Nigeria gathered faithfuls as well as other Christians and other people to pray for security and to denounce the barbaric killings of Christians by the Boko Haram insurgents and the incessant cases of kidnapping for ransom in Nigeria. | AFP via Getty Images/KOLA SULAIMON

A Nigerian civil society group estimates that 1,202 Christians have been killed in Nigeria in the first six months of 2020 by jihadists, radicalized herdsmen and others as 22 more Christians were reportedly killed in the Kaduna state last weekend.

As rights groups continue to voice concern about “genocidal” crimes being committed in Nigeria, the Anambra-based International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law has released a new report stating that no fewer than 1,202 Christians were killed between January and June 2020.

Intersociety, an organization headed by Christian criminologist Emeka Umeagbalasi, relies on what it deems to be credible local and foreign media reports, government accounts, reports from international rights groups and eyewitness accounts to compile statistical data. Due to the lack of adequate government record-keeping, death tolls reported by media outlets should be construed as estimates.

According to the report, the majority of Intersociety’s estimated 1,202 Christian death toll through the first six months of 2020 comes mostly from the 812 killings committed by members of the predominantly Muslim Fulani herding community who have been radicalized to carry out attacks against predominantly Christian farming communities in the farming-rich Middle Belt States.

Additionally, 390 Christian deaths were attributed to killings committed by radical Islamic groups in the northeast, like Boko Haram and the Islamic State West Africa Province, in addition to other perpetrators such as armed bandits.

“Thousands of defenseless Christians who survived being hacked to death have also been injured and left in mutilated conditions with several of them crippled for life,” the Intersociety report states. “Hundreds of Christian worship and learning centers have been destroyed or burnt; likewise thousands of dwelling houses, farmlands and other properties belonging to Christians.”

Intersociety reports that between January and the end of June, Boko Haram killed over 600 people of different religions, 260 of which were killed between May 15 and June 30.

According to Intersociety, 100 of those people killed by Boko Haram and ISWAP between mid-May and the end of June “were strongly believed to be Christians.”

Additionally, the organization notes that at least 258 killings were committed by radicalized herdsmen between May 15 and June 30.

As Fulani radicals have increasingly attacked Christian farming communities in recent years, the killings have been labeled by the Nigerian government and some human rights groups as part of the decades-long conflicts between herders and farmers in Africa. However, advocates for Nigerian Christian communities contend that the “herder-farmer conflict” label is misleading because it doesn’t take into account other factors at play, such as religious elements.

“All the areas under Jihadist Herdsmen attacks are Christian communities, as to date,” the Intersociety report reads. “There are no pieces of evidence anywhere showing killing of Muslims and taking over of their lands, farmlands and houses or destruction or burning of Mosques by the Jihadist Herdsmen.”

The organization also warned that there has been a “rapid increase” in the number of young girls and women who are abducted by radicals nationwide.

“In other words, Nigeria’s genocidal and atrocious Jihadists including Jihadist Herdsmen and Boko Haram/ISWAP have rapidly increased their rate of abduction of the referenced females, both legally married and unmarried,” the report explains. “Such abducted women hardly return when abducted.”

According to the report, abducted women are sometimes used as sex slaves by their captors and are forcefully married and converted to Islam.

Intersociety’s new report was released the same weekend in which 22 more people were reportedly killed and an unknown number of people were injured and displaced by a series of attacks in remote areas of the southern Kaduna state between July 10 and July 12.

Last weekend’s attacks in Kaduna were said to have been carried out by suspected Fulani assailants, according to the Southern Kaduna People’s Union.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide, an organization that works with the persecuted church in over 20 countries, reports that nine people were killed and many more injured during an attack carried out in the Chibwob community in the Gora ward of the Sangon Kataf local government area of Kaduna last Friday.

Most of the victims were women and children. Assailants are accused of burning down over 20 homes, burning motorcycles and destroying farms.

The next day, Fulani assailants reportedly attacked settlements close to Chibwob that include the Kigudu community. In that attack, 10 women, an infant and an elderly man were reported to have burned to death inside a home.

On Sunday, suspected Fulani assailants attacked the Ungwan Audu village in the Gora ward.

The assailants reportedly killed one person and burned down the entire village. The village consisted of 163 households.

According to CSW, over 1,000 people and 11 pregnant women were displaced by last weekend’s violence and are now taking shelter in an educational facility owned by the Evangelical Church Winning All denomination.

On Sunday, the Southern Kaduna People’s Union released a statement condemning the attacks and pointed out the fact that police officers assigned to the area to enforce a 24-hour curfew were nowhere to be found when the attacks began.

“With the curfew still in rigid enforcement, Anguwan Audu, a Surubu village, still under Gora ward was invaded this morning of 12th July, 2020, where the village was looted and entirely burnt and one person killed,” SOKPU Public Relation Officer Luka Binniyat said. “This brought to a total death toll of 22 persons in three days of unbroken attacks under a 24-hour strictly imposed curfew that has been running for 31 days today.”

Binniyat argues that the recent attacks “confirm a veiled but documented threat” issued on June 17 by the leaders of five Fulani supremacist groups at a press conference in Kaduna.

“We are dismayed by the actions of the security forces, who reportedly attacked peaceful protestors and arrested farmers for violating the curfew, yet failed to prevent armed non-state actors from terrorising civilians for three consecutive days,” CSW Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said in a statement.

“The ongoing violence and loss of life in southern Kaduna is emblematic of an enduring failure or unwillingness on the part of both levels of government to fulfill the responsibility to protecting all citizens in an effective and unbiased manner.”

In the Tse Chembe district of the Logo local government area of Benue state, another seven people were killed by suspected Fulani radicals last Friday. Benue Gov. Samuel Ortom calledon President Muhammadu Buhari to declare Fulani radicals as terrorists.

Nigeria ranks as the 12th worst country in the world when it comes to Christian persecution on Open Doors USA’s 2020 World Watch List.

Last year, the United States-based nongovernmental organization Jubilee Campaign advised the International Criminal Court in Hague that the standard for genocide against Christians in Nigeria has been reached and urged an investigation.

There is growing pressure in Washington, D.C., for the U.S. government to appoint a special envoy to Nigeria and the Lake Chad region to investigate the mass atrocities being committed there. The U.S. State Department placed Nigeria on its special watch list of countries that engage in or tolerate severe violations of religious freedom last December.