Western Christians need to "grow up" and stop complaining of "persecution," said Lord Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.
His experiences abroad meeting victims of actual religious persecution and violence led him to urge British Christians to make the distinction between feeling "mildly uncomfortable" and "the systematic brutality and often murderous hostility which means that every morning you get up wondering if you and your children are going to make it through the day."
When you have any contact with real persecuted minorities you learn to use the word 'persecuted' very chastely. I think we are made to feel uncomfortable at times. We're made to feel as if we're idiots - perish the thought! But that kind of level of not being taken very seriously or being made fun of; I mean for goodness sake, grow up.
His statements are timely considering the current violence against Christians in Egypt, where over 30 churches have been torched in conjunction with the political upheaval. Coptic Bishop Angaelos of the United Kingdom issued a statement warning of the "very real risk upon the life of every Christian," and Pope Tawadros II has suspended weekly public events in Egypt due to safety concerns.
An April poll by the Coalition for Marriage reported that 67% of U.K. Christians feel like they are part of a "persecuted minority." The Coalition for Marriage pointed to Prime Minister David Cameron's support of marriage equality as a reason behind the statistic.
Lord Carey, another former Archbishop of Canterbury, weighed in on the issue earlier this year, also arguing that Cameron was partly to blame for feelings of persecution that some Christians have.
"Their fears may be exaggerated because few in the UK are actually persecuted, but the Prime Minister has done more than any other recent political leader to feed these anxieties," he said.
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Ghana- 96% religious
Ghanaian cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson attends a mass at the St Peter's basilica on March 12, 2013 at the Vatican. Cardinals moved into the Vatican today as the suspense mounted ahead of a secret papal election with no clear frontrunner to steer the Catholic world through troubled waters after Benedict XVI's historic resignation.The 115 cardinal electors who pick the next leader of 1.2 billion Catholics in a conclave in the Sistine Chapel will live inside the Vatican walls completely cut off from the outside world until they have made their choice.
Nigeria- 93% religious
In this photo taken on Thursday, July 18, 2013, Hauwa Jubril, a muslim girl sit outside a shop in Obalende, Lagos, Nigeria. Nigerias secular and Islamic laws clashed when a senator notorious for marrying a 14-year-old filibustered a vote to amend the constitution by insisting that a girl child comes of age when she marries, not at 18. Enraged activists are demanding the senate revisit the vote, asking how a known pedophile could get away with subverting the countrys constitution.
Armenia- 92% religious
This photo taken on January 5, 2013 shows a man lighting a candle during a Christmas Eve service at the Khor Virab church outside Yerevan. Millions of Armenians will celebrate Christmas on January 6.
Fiji- 92% religious
Pilgrims from Fiji attend the morning Mass of Pope Benedict XVI at Randwick Racecourse in Sydney on July 20, 2008. Far fewer people than the predicted crowd of 500,000 turned out for a final World Youth Day mass led by Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday, leaving one venue almost empty of worshippers, AFP photographers said.
Macedonia- 90% religious
The president of Macedonia'parliament Trajko Veljanoski kisses the hand of Pope Francis during a private audience on May 24, 2013 at the Vatican.
Romania- 89% religious
Visitors light up candles inside a room 'The space for Recollection and Prayer' to commemorate victims of the communist repression in Romania, in Sighetu Marmatiei on July 13, 2013. Former dissidents and political prisoners gathered in Romania on July 14, 2013 at a museum commemorating those who suffered abuses under communism, set up 20 years ago at the site of a prison where scores died.
Iraq- 88% religious
Shiite Muslim worshippers light candles outside Imam Mohammed al-Mahdi shrine during the annual festival of Shabaniyah, which marks the anniversary of the birth of the ninth-century Shiite leader known as the Hidden Imam, in Karbala, 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, June 24, 2013. (AP Photo/ Hadi Mizban)
Kenya- 88% religious
Njemps tribemen dance in front of a statue of Buddha at the Gallmann nature conservancy near Kinamba, Laikipia, Northern Kenya on March 4, 2012. High Priest Shinso Ito and a group of Shinnyo-en priests arrived in Kenya to perform a Buddhist fire and water ceremony for the first time ever in Africa.The ceremony was attended by over 300 spiritual leaders and was streamed live on the internet to millions of viewers and devotees globally. The ceremony involved Kenyan tribal elders and members of the Njemps, Pokot Samburu, Kikuyu and Turkana communites. AFP PHOTO/Carl de Souza (Photo credit should read CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images)
Peru- 86% religious
A faithful holds an image of the 'The Lord of Miracles', worshipped by the majority of the Catholic Peruvians, during his main procession on October 18, 2012 in Lima.
Brazil- 85% religious
Catholics touch an icon of the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ as it is taken along with the World Youth Day (WYD) Cross that in 1984 Pope John Paul II entrusted the youth of the world, across Rocinha shantytown in Rio de Janeiro on July 18, 2013. The Pope is due in Rio for the July 22-28 Catholic WYD, an event expected to attract two million people from around the globe.
Ireland- 10% atheist
Roman Catholics listen to Bishop Noel Treanor during mass at St Peter's Roman Catholic Cathedral in West Belfast, Northern Ireland, Sunday, March, 21, 2010. Pope Benedict XVI has apologised to victims of child sex abuse by Catholic priests in Ireland. Extracts from the Popes letter were read at all masses across Ireland Sunday, in the pastoral letter to Irish Catholics, he acknowledged the sense of betrayal in the Church felt by victims and their families.
Australia- 10% atheist
A Falun Gong Practitioner poses on the 14th anniversary of the beginning of the persecution of Falun Gong in China on July 21, 2013 in Sydney, Australia. In July of 1999, the communist Chinese government outlawed the spiritual practise of Falun Gong, declaring it illegal and forbidding citizens to practise. Followers believe thousands of practitioners have been killed, imprisoned or put in labour camps in China since 1999.
Iceland- 10% atheist
Pope Benedict XVI (R) poses with Iceland president Olafur Ragnar Grinsson during a private audience at the Vatican on March 4, 2011.
Austria- 10% atheist
The Russian Orthodox cathedral of St. Nicholas is seen on a clear day in Vienna on April 1, 2013.
Netherlands- 14% atheist
Dozens of people queue in front of the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam on May 1, 2013. A day after the crowning of king Willem-Alexander the church has opened it's doors for those who want to see the church in the same setting as during the ceremony on April 30.
Germany- 15% atheist
Eight new priests prepare for their ordination at the Freisinger Dom cathedral on June 29, 2013 in Freising, Germany. Freising Cathedral, also called Saint Mary and Corbinian Cathedral, is a romanesque basilica in Freising, Bavaria. The Freising Cathedral is also known for being the place where Pope Benedict XVI was ordained a priest. Bavaria, Germany's southern-most state, is heavily Catholic.
South Korea- 15% atheist
Nuns walk on a popular shopping street in Seoul on July 6, 2013. Freedom of religion is constitutionally guaranteed in South Korea, which is predominantly Buddhist and Christian.
France- 29% atheist
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Czech Republic- 30% atheist
Tourists enjoy a sunny day on March 25, 2010 at the traditional Eastern market in the Old Town Square in Prague.
Japan- 31% atheist
Crown Prince Naruhito of Japan (R) and Galician regional president Alberto Nunez Feijoo (L) attend a concert at Cathedral on June 15, 2013 in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.
China- 47% atheist
This photo taken on on June 27, 2013 shows a muslim Uighur walking through dusty streets in Turpan, Xinjiang Province. China's constitution proclaims the country's dozens of minority groups as integral and equal parts of the national tapestry -- but analysts say the mishandling of such distinctions is a driver of unrest in remote Xinjiang. Beijing's propaganda portrays the vast western region more than four times the size of Japan as a harmonious land of colourful, mostly Muslim Uighur natives and hard-working migrants prospering under Communist Party rule.