Persecution of Christians is on the rise, with 2015 the most violent year in modern history for members of the faith. That is the conclusion of a new report by Open Doors USA, a non-profit group that has been monitoring Christian persecution worldwide since 1955.
The group says last year persecution of Christians reached "a level akin to ethnic cleansing,"
The report notes, “Islamic extremism remains by far the most common driver of persecution: in eight out of the top 10, and 35 out of the top 50 countries, it is the primary cause. A rise in Islamic extremism sees Pakistan at its highest position ever, and Libya entering the top ten for the first time.”
Worldwide, the report notes, according to conservative estimates and excluding North Korea, Syria and Iraq (where records do not exist), over 7,000 Christians were killed for faith-related reasons in this past year – a rise of almost 3,000 from the previous year.
Close to 2,400 churches were attacked or damaged – over double the number for last year.
In addition, the report also states “all the time, beneath these 'headline' events, there is constant, low-level, localized persecution. Christians are driven out of their communities, refused burial, denied jobs or education. Churches are torn down because of local opposition or mob rule. For millions of Christians, the everyday persecution happens in their village, or even among their family.”
The following are some of the main outtakes from the report:
Islamic extremism has been crossing borders:
The Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL) has moved beyond Syria and Iraq and into Libya. Boko Haram has spread to Cameroon and Chad, and al-Shabaab into Kenya. Meanwhile, many smaller extremist movements have declared themselves part of the ISIS group of caliphates. Even the West has felt the tremors. Bombs in Paris, gunfights in California, holidaymakers killed on a Tunisian beach: in a globalized world, there is no such place as abroad anymore.
Many parts of the Muslim world are becoming more Islamic:
All over the Middle East especially, Muslims are becoming more fundamentalist, partly out of fear that extremists may take over. However, there is a counter-trend as many Muslims search for a new identity as they turn away in disgust from extremism. Many are choosing Christianity as a faith instead.
African countries continue to move into the top 50:
Islamic extremism in the world today has two hubs, one in the Middle East, the other in sub-Saharan Africa. Sixteen countries in the top 50 are from Africa, seven in the top 20. In numerical terms, if not in degree, the persecution of Christians in this region dwarfs what is happening in the Middle East.
More states are lawless, and minorities suffer violence:
Much of Syria and Iraq has become effectively lawless, with Christian communities especially targeted. In lawless Libya, migrant Christians from Sudan, Egypt and Eritrea were brutally executed, and the tiny Muslim-background believer church has been driven even further into hiding. In Yemen, Saudi-led forces make it even harder for the few Christians remaining.
Never have so many Christians been on the move:
The “migrant crisis” is not limited to the Mediterranean. Tens of thousands of Christians fled the 12 Islamic Sharia states of northern Nigeria. In Kenya, Christians are fleeing the Muslim majority areas. Every month, thousands leave Eritrea, braving desert and trafficking gangs. Even Pakistani Christians are fleeing to countries in South East Asia.
Ethnic cleansing is back as an anti-Christian tactic:
In the Middle East and Africa, persecution increasingly takes the form of ethnic cleansing. In middle-belt Nigeria, Christians have been forcefully removed from their homes and indigenous land by the Hausa-Fulani settlers. In Sudan, Nuba Christians have been indiscriminately targeted and killed. The intent is to remove or even exterminate Christians.
Get a preview of Clarion Project’s upcoming film, Faithkeepers, about the violent persecution of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East. The film features exclusive footage and testimonials of Christians, Baha’i, Yazidis, Jews, and other minority refugees, and a historical context of the persecution in the region.