Every five minutes a Christian is martyred for their faith, an organisation for persecuted Christians has claimed. According to Christian Freedom International, more than 200 million followers around the world currently face persecution, making Christians the most persecuted faith group on the planet.
Christians currently face persecution in 105 of the world’s 196 countries in a geographic sweep which extends across northern and western Africa, across the Middle East, throughout Asia and down into Indonesia.
CFI works with a number of these communities, helping people escape persecution and rebuild their lives. It has calculated that more Christians have been martyred for their faith in the 20th and 21st centuries alone than during the previous 19 centuries combined.
Much of the persecution today is at the hands of Islamic militants. CFI president Jim Jacobson has described the scene in Iraq, where Islamic State militants are systematically stamping out Christianity, crucifying men, women and children and destroying churches.
“Islamic State Militants in Iraq are using Christian churches as torture chambers where they force Christians to either convert to Islam or die,” he says. “Islamic State militants are also stripping the former places of Christian worship of ancient relics which in turn are smuggled to Western collectors to help fund their terrorist activities.
“These atrocities must stop.”
— Terrormonitor.org (@Terror_Monitor) September 11, 2015
In Kenya, there have been numerous examples of Christians being singled out and brutally killed. Last December Somali Islamic militants from al-Shabab shot and decapitated 36 people, most of them young miners at a local quarry. Muslim miners working alongside them were spared.
The attack came less than two weeks after a similar incident in which bus passengers were asked to recite an Islamic creed by al-Shabab terrorists. Those who could not were assumed to be non-Muslims and were shot.
In Indonesia, there is anecdotal evidence that Islamic militants cut off the body parts of Christians until they either convert to Islam or are eventually beheaded.
Earlier this year in Pakistan a Christian teenager died after being set alight by two Muslim youths, because he was a Christian. Nouman Masih was taken to hospital with burns on 55 percent of his body. Doctors initally thought he might survive, and he was able to speak, telling reporters: “I told them that I am Christian. They started beating me, when I tried running, both boys started following me through the street and then they threw kerosene on me and burnt me.” Sadly Masih later succumbed to his wounds as the hospital lacked specialised treatment facilities for burns.
The CFI has now organised an international day of prayer for persecuted Christians on November 8, urging churches to remember and pray for their fellow Christians facing persecution.
“I encourage you to pray for Persecuted Believers,” Mr Jacobson said. “They are your Christian family throughout the world. Pray for their safety; that they would be emboldened to continue sharing the Gospel even in the face of persecution; that their persecutors would also come to know Christ as they observe the courageous witness of these believers.”