More than just China
But it goes beyond China. Athletes who proudly represented their nations are returning to countries where being a Christian means isolation, persecution and violence:
In Pakistan, Christians are considered second-class citizens, and the country’s infamous blasphemy laws continue to be leveraged to accuse non-Muslims (or minority Muslim sects) of insulting the Prophet Muhammad or the Quran; even a false accusation can lead to mob violence and worse.
In Iran, being a Muslim convert can mean having your house raided and being arrested, prosecuted and given a long prison sentence for “crimes against national security.”
In India, Hindu extremists aim to cleanse the country of Christian presence and influence. This leads to a systemic—and often violent and carefully orchestrated—targeting of Christians and other religious minorities.
In Nigeria, persecution is at its most violent. In much of northern Nigeria, Christians live their lives under the constant threat of attack from Boko Haram, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), Fulani militants and criminals who kidnap and murder with few consequences. Last year, more than 4,650 Christians were killed in Nigeria alone.
In Saudi Arabia, most Christians come from other countries to work; because of that, foreign Christians are heavily restricted from sharing their faith or gathering for worship, and any actions outside of the norm can lead to detention and deportation.
In Morocco, Article 220 of their penal code criminalizes “shaking the faith of a Muslim.” This law puts many Christians (both Moroccan and foreign) who share their faith with others at risk of arrest and criminal prosecution.
In Mexico, Christians are against criminal operations and violence and are therefore at constant risk of being targeted for elimination by criminal groups and cartels.
In Colombia, Guerrilla groups threaten, harass, extort and even murder church leaders, who are targeted because they denounce corruption, defend human rights and oppose cartels.
In Turkey, any Muslim who decides to follow Jesus comes under immense strain from their families and communities, who often demand they return to Islam.