US Catholics less concerned about Christian persecution than human trafficking, poverty, climate change and refugees

Some Catholics in the United States believe that there are more important issues of concern than the persecution of Christians around the world, despite a recent survey revealing that a significant number of respondents think attacks based on religion, especially against Christians, have become more severe in recent times.

(REUTERS/Jayanta Shaw)School children listen to a speech by a Christian leader during a protest rally in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata after Hindu mobs ransacked a church and clashed with Christian villagers in the eastern state of Orissa.

The survey - which was conducted by the group Aid to the Church in Need and released on March 1 - aimed to look into the awareness of Catholic Americans when it came to Christian persecution. At least 40 percent said that they knew it was a "severe" problem globally, while 51 percent believed that it was a "somewhat severe" problem. At least four in 10 Catholics also said that attacks based on religion were directed towards Christians the most.

Regardless of the numbers, however, for some Catholic Americans, Christian persecution was not their main problem. The most pressing issues for them were ranked as follows: human trafficking (86 percent), poverty (86 percent), climate change (74 percent), refugee crisis (74 percent), and Christian persecution (69 percent).

"What the survey reveals quite clearly is that there is a need to increase the engagement level of the US Catholic Church when it comes to global Christian persecution—both at the grassroots and leadership levels," ACN USA chairman George Marlin said in the press release. "The issue has to become a priority."

Human rights watch group Open Doors revealed in a separate survey that Christians in North Korea were in the most danger of being persecuted. The group's rankings of other countries where following Jesus could be seen as a crime include Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan and Pakistan.

Marlin stressed that Christians need more leadership to stand up to these persecutions that might likely involve executions, rape, other forms of violence and harassment, as well as social exclusion. Half of the people who answered the poll, however, found Pope Francis, the leader of the Catholic Church, as the most engaged pontiff.