According to the Catholic News Agency, a new report issued by Open Doors UK, a Christian advocacy group working in 60 countries has found that Christian persecution reached a new peak in 2015 with thousands more people killed because of their belief in Jesus Christ.
Almost 4,000 were killed in Nigeria, home of the radical Boko Haram, with another 2,000 perishing in Central Africa and Chad.
More than 2,400 churches were either attacked, destroyed or shut-down for faith-related reasons around the world last year.
“The persecution of Christians is getting worse – in every region in which we work – and it’s getting worse fast,” said Lisa Pearce, CEO of Open Doors UK and Ireland, in the group’s 2016 report. “Many countries have dropped down the list, not because persecution there is decreasing, but simply because others are getting worse faster. And it wasn’t good three years ago.”
She added: “We can and must be strenuous in protecting Christians and all others facing persecution for their faith.”
The group’s World Watch List puts North Korea in the top slot as the worst offender of the rights of Christians, followed by Iraq, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Iran and Libya.
With the exception of North Korea, all of the other countries are hot beds of Muslim extremism.
In North Korea, the tight-fisted control of the communist regime makes it extremely dangerous to be Christian. The country’s leadership sees Christianity as “deeply Western and despicable” and routinely incarcerates Christians in one of the most deplorable prison systems in the world.
“Christians try to hide their faith as far as possible to avoid arrest and being sent to a labor camp,” the report states. “Thus, being Christian has to be a well-protected secret, even within families, and most parents refrain from introducing their children to the Christian faith in order to make sure that nothing slips their tongue when they are asked.”
Things are not much better in Iraq where thousands of Christians have fled for fear of their lives, especially in regions of the country now in control of ISIS forces.
“Iraq has suffered from years of structural uncertainty, conflict and instability under a government incapable of enforcing the rule of law and providing a minimum of security,” Open Doors said.
In Eritrea, where the Islamist terrorist group, Al-Shabaab, is permitted to flourish, there are about 2.5 million Christians out of a population of 6.7 million.
“The Eritrean regime is absolutely authoritarian and intolerant towards any form of association, dissent and free expression,” the report states.
The expansion of Islamic caliphates is one reason for the increase in Christian persecution, as well as the growth of religious extremism in Hindu and Buddhist areas.
Another problem is with governments who fear the growth of Islamic extremism who respond by tightening rules and increasing surveillance over religious expression.
“There is always hope, and yet we are in unmarked territory – the pace and scale of persecution of Christians is unprecedented and growing fast,” Pearce said.
“We should not expect that to change unless we are part of changing the situation.”
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