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If you only watched the mainstream media you might be shocked to learn that we are now hitting new all-time highs for the persecution of Christians worldwide. Numerous countries are now expecting to see the near-total eradication of their Christian populations yet it is rarely reported in the news.
Hundreds of thousands each year face torture, imprisonment, persecution, forced displacement and death, according to data presented by several Christian persecution watch organizations.
Among the 13 countries that regularly rank among the worst for religious tolerance, in 12 of these the situation worsened in the two-year period of 2015-2017 when compared with the preceding two-year period. In the thirteenth country, Saudi Arabia, treatment of Christians has not worsened but neither has it improved in one of the most religiously intolerant countries on Earth.
In raw numbers, the level of abuse is appalling with an estimated 600,000 Christians suffering serious persecution in 2016 alone. For some this means imprisonment and torture, for others it means being driven from their homes and forced into refugee camps where they are victimized further.
And whereas firm numbers are hard to gather, roughly 100,000 Christians worldwide, between 2015 and 2017, have lost their lives to religious intolerance.
Once again, North Korea is ranked as the most oppressive place in the world for Christians. In this totalitarian communist state, Christians are forced to hide their faith completely from government authorities, neighbors and often, even their own spouses and children.
Due to ever-present surveillance, many pray with eyes open, and gathering for praise or fellowship is practically impossible. Worship of the ruling Kim family is mandated for all citizens, and those who don't comply are arrested, imprisoned, tortured or killed.
Entire Christian families are imprisoned in hard labor camps, where unknown numbers die each year from torture, beatings, overexertion and starvation. Those who attempt to flee to South Korea through China risk execution or life imprisonment.
In Syria and Iraq, the situation is especially dire. The Chaldean Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo, Syria reports a drop from 1.2 million to just 500,000 Christians in a 5-year span. As ISIS, Hezbollah, the Assad Regime and dozens of smaller factions of Islamic militants all vie for control, Christians face constant threats of abuse and even massacre.
Time and time again, both State and non-State actors in Islamic countries have targeted Christian minorities for extermination, ISIS being the most brazen.
Boko Haram, which is now an Islamic State affiliate, has waged a brutal campaign of anti-Christian genocide in Nigeria that has killed thousands of Christians and forced others into slavery. And Boko Haram is not the only group in Nigeria targeting Christians.
Between October 8th and October 17th of this year, Islamic Fulani herdsmen massacred 48 Nigerian Christians in violent attacks that saw them breaking down doors, setting fire to churches and slaughtering families in the night. Many more have abandoned their villages in fear.
Village leaders report that the Islamic Fulani herdsmen have continued to carry out their attacks despite the presence of soldiers nearby who do nothing to intervene. "These attacks are being carried out daily. Every day we witness the invasion, killing of our people, and the destruction of their houses," according to Moses Tsohu, a Zanwrua village leader and member of Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA).
In Iraq, the Christian population has decreased from 1.5 million in 2003 to an estimated 150,000 currently. Now that ISIS has been pushed out, some who fled may return to their homes, but even those will only find their homes looted or utterly destroyed, their lives in ruins. If this trend continues, the Iraqi Christian population will disappear entirely by 2020, some experts believe.
Iran is now the source of a new round of crackdowns on Christians as well, many of them hauled off to secret prison and threatened with hefty fines, prison sentences, torture and even death for converting to Christianity or worshipping in "house churches".
Iran, feeling the pressure of a less-religious youth despite its billions spent on Islamic indoctrination, has lashed out at its Christian minority. After requiring all Churches to register with the government and banning all public displays of Christianity (including weddings), it has launched a campaign of terror against private worship services.
News reports now abound of religious police breaking down doors, confiscating Bibles and sending entire families off to prison where they are told to renounce their faith.
In Islamic countries, blasphemy laws are used as an effective tool to persecute Christians. Indonesia, Iran, Pakistan and many others Islamic nations now see the law being used regularly to imprison Christians who simply do not submit to the rule of Islam.
But Islam is not the only offender. India has also seen large spasms of anti-Christian violence with the rise in 2014 of the right-wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, led by India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi. China too has cracked down on Christian clergy and Christian symbols in a new push to make sure obedience to the Communist state is first priority.
In the developed world, the ranks of believers have dwindled more with every passing decade and in the developing world, theocratic and authoritarian regimes along with violent mobs, Islamic for the most part, have intensified the pace of persecution and slaughter to new levels.
Now, more than ever, Christianity needs to come together and be strong in the face of such violence and evil.
Top 10 Persecuting Countries according to Open Doors Ministries:
- North Korea