A new report by a leading watchdog group has identified 2016 as the “worst year yet” for Christian persecution, ever since the organization began monitoring persecution 25 years ago.
The report, which is produced annually by Open Doors USA, found that persecution of Christians rose globally for the third year in a row, reaching “unprecedented levels” in countries located in South and Southeast Asia, among other locations.
“Christians throughout the world continue to risk imprisonment, loss of home and assets, torture, beheadings, rape and even death as a result of their faith,” the report stated.
The World Watch List (WWL) ranks the 50 countries across the globe where persecution of Christians is most severe.
In 25 years of chronicling and ranking the political and societal restrictions on religious freedom experienced by Christians worldwide, Open Doors researchers identified 2016 as the “worst year yet.”
The report corroborated an earlier study from the Turin-based Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR), which found that during the year 2016, some 90,000 Christians were killed for their faith around the world.
The director of CESNUR and leader of the study, Dr. Massimo Introvigne, told Breitbart News that Christians are “the most persecuted religious group in the world,” and the numbers of those affected are staggering.
Islamic extremism remains the dominant driver of Christian persecution in the world, responsible for initiating oppression and conflict in 35 out of the 50 countries on the 2017 list. Moreover, nine out of the top ten countries where Christians suffer “extreme persecution” have populations that are at least 50% Muslim.
“Islamic oppression remains the most common cause of pressure against Christians,” the report states, “and it is rising most sharply in Africa, where more people are killed for their Christian faith than anywhere else in the world.”
For the 14th straight year, North Korea tops the list as the most dangerous place to be a Christian, followed by Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Eritrea and Yemen.
While killings of Christians in Nigeria saw a dramatic increase of more than 62 percent in 2016, the most violent nation is now Pakistan, which climbed to No. 4 on the list for a level of anti-Christian violence “exceeding even northern Nigeria.”
Last Easter Sunday, an Islamist terror group affiliated with the Pakistani Taliban carried out a suicide bombing in Lahore, Pakistan, killing more than 70 children and adults. “The target was Christians,” said a spokesman for the group, adding that the jihadists wanted to send a message to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif “that we have entered Lahore.”
The Watch List examines the pressures faced by Christians in five spheres of life (private, family, community, national, and church), plus levels of religiously motivated violence, in order to rank the top 50 countries where “Christians face the most persecution.”
By the specific criteria used, approximately 215 million Christians experience high, very high, or extreme persecution, the study found.
The Open Doors Watch List is audited by the International Institute for Religious Freedom.
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