In a new video message, Pope Francis calls attention to the dramatic phenomenon of systematic Christian persecution, urging Christians to pray for their persecuted brothers and sisters throughout the world.
Produced to underscore the Pope’s primary prayer intention for March, the video message notes that anti-Christian persecutors don’t distinguish among Catholics, Protestants or Orthodox Christians, but simply act out of hatred for Christianity itself.
“How many persons are persecuted because of their faith, forced from their homes, their places of worship, their lands, their affections?” the Pope asks. “They are persecuted and executed because they are Christians, without distinction, by the persecutors, among the denominations to which they belong.”
“I ask you,” Francis continues, “how many of you pray for Christians who are persecuted? Do it with me so they can experience the support of all the churches and communities through prayer and material assistance.”
Pope Francis has repeatedly denounced the global persecution of Christians, who are still today “killed, burned alive, throats slit, and beheaded with barbarous blades amid cowardly silence.”
Anti-Christian persecution is growing at dramatic levels, with over 200 million Christians experiencing violence or discrimination last year.
Open Doors USA, identified 2016 as the “worst year yet” for Christian persecution, ever since the watchdog group began monitoring persecution 25 years ago.
Their annual report 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.
Open Doors’ World Watch List (WWL) ranks the 50 countries across the globe where persecution of Christians is most severe.
A similar report from the Turin-based Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR) found that during the year 2016, some 90,000 Christians were killed for their faith around the world.
The director of CESNUR and study leader, 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.
While in the past century, atheistic communist regimes were the greatest persecutors of Christians, Introvigne said, the geopolitical landscape has changed considerably since then and the actors have changed as well.
While Communism is still responsible for some ill-treatment of Christians in places like China and North Korea, Introvigne told Breitbart, “Islamic ultra-fundamentalism” has taken its place as the number-one agent of persecution.
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