Last year was the most violent for Christians in modern history, rising to “a level akin to ethnic cleansing,” according to a new report by Open Doors USA, a watchdog group that advocates for Christians.
In total, the survey found that more than 7,100 Christians were killed in 2015 for “faith-related reasons,” up 3,000 from the previous year, according to the group’s analysis of media reports and other public information as well as external experts. Open Door’s report is independently audited by the International Institute of Religious Freedom. Open Doors USA is an organization that works with Christians worldwide to “equip and encourage” those living under persecution while also helping churches in America advocate for the persecuted around the world.
The group’s report defines Christian persecution “as any hostility experienced as a result of one’s identification with Christ.” Open Doors found this persecution ranged from imprisonment, torture, beheadings and rape to the loss of home and assets, the loss of a job, or even rejection from a community.
Speaking at the National Press Club on Wednesday, David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors, introduced the annual ranking of countries based on their severity of Christian persecution, evaluating levels of violence worldwide to formulate the global top 50. The list, now in its 25th year, is topped by North Korea for the 14th consecutive time. Curry says that “pariah states” like North Korea are especially hostile toward Christians.
According to the report, however, much of the persecution faced by Christians occurs in predominantly Muslim nations, many of which are “failed states” that fail to protect any of their citizens’ religious liberty.
The presence of Islamic extremist factions across the world in 2015 brought religious persecution for not only Christians, but also Muslims, Yazidis and other religious minorities, the report found. Notably, Iraq (No. 2) and Syria (No. 5) are the epicenter of ISIS’ so called “caliphate,” while Afghanistan (4), Pakistan (6), Iran (9) and Libya (10) all have elements of Islamic extremism.
Curry said that while “Islamic extremism is one of the driving forces” of Christian persecution, “peace-loving Muslims can make an impact on that part of their culture.”
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William J. Cadigan