10 Shocking Facts About Christian Persecution Today

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The bloodshed in Egypt has dominated the news this month, but overlooked in the media coverage of the battle for control of that country is the dramatic increase in violence against Christians. An unknown number of Christians have been killed and dozens of Christian institutions have been robbed or burned. But this violence just reaffirms a modern reality: being a Christian is the most dangerous affiliation in the world. True, followers of many faiths are persecuted for their beliefs in various countries. But persecution of Christians is much more widespread around the world. Each year, tens of thousands of Christians are killed solely because of their beliefs, and countless more are subjected to cruel punishments, ranging from hard labor camps to child prostitution. Here are just a few of the sad facts.

Christians are more persecuted than any other faith in the world.

Photo credit: James Jordan

10. Over 100,000 Christians Worldwide Are Killed For Their Faith Each Year

In a 2013 radio address to members of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Vatican official Monsieur Silvano Maria Tomassi noted that, “Credible research has reached the shocking conclusion that an estimate of more than 100,000 Christians are violently killed because of some relation to their faith every year.” Some observers believe that figure is on the low side; some sources estimate as many as 150,000 Christians are killed each year for their faith. It’s hard to say for sure how many are killed, given the victims that “mysteriously” disappear from their homes, churches, etc. Are they dead? Held in labor camps?


9. Christians Are Persecuted in at Least 60 Countries

This figure comes courtesy of Open Doors USA, a Christian ministry operating worldwide. The group is well known for its annual World Watch List, outlining countries where persecution of Christians is most severe. The 2013 list includes 11 countries where Christians suffer “extreme persecution,” headed by North Korea, followed by Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia. The Maldives, Mali, Iran, Yemen, Eritrea and Syria round out the list. Some of those countries seem like obvious choices, but the Maldives? The obscure island nation in the Indian Ocean is the only country in the world where every citizen is required to be Muslim, according to Open Doors.


8. Deadly Terrorist Attacks During Church Services Not Uncommon

There is no safety in numbers for Christians at their place of worship in some countries. On New Year’s Eve 2011, terrorists bombed a church in Alexandria, Egypt, killing 23 Christians. In December 2012, terrorists in the Muslim-majority northern region of Nigeria burst into a church and gunned down 15 people. Even Christian holy days are not a time of peace; on Christmas day in 2012, in Islamabad, Pakistan, a mob of more than 100 Muslim extremists beat men, women and children leaving Christian services.


7. Christians Are Severely Persecuted For Even Minor Offenses

Persecution can take many different forms. In some countries, Christians are discouraged from practicing their faith, or sharing the Gospel with others. At the opposite extreme are countries where mere possession of a Bible can lead to execution. There are several levels of persecution in between. In Pakistan, for instance, so-called “blasphemy laws” prohibit anyone from uttering negative comments about Islam. In 2009, some Muslim laborers and a fellow Christian named Asia Bibi had a disagreement about religion. Local authorities arrested Bibi, a mother of five, and tried her for “blasphemy.” A judge found her guilty and she has been sentenced to hang. Ironically, while Bibi’s case has resulted in international outrage and calls for a change in Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, the incident has also increased the danger for some Christians; two high-level Pakistani government officials who have spoken out in support of Bibi have been assassinated for their statements.


6. Human Trafficking Rings Targeting Christians

According to the 2013 U.S. State Department Trafficking in Persons Report, as many as 27 million people worldwide are victims of human trafficking, which is really just a euphemism for a much uglier term: modern slavery. The majority of these victims are bought and sold for the purposes of sexual exploitation. A little-reported aspect of this gruesome trade is that Christians are frequently targeted, particularly in Muslim nations. In the last few years, thousands of refugees, many of them Christians fleeing persecution in Eritrea and other African countries, have been captured by terrorists operating in the Sinai Desert. The New York Times reports as many as 4,000 refugees have been killed. Muslims aren’t the only ones targeting Christians in this gruesome trade; in India, Hindu traffickers often victimize Christians.


5. Christians Denied Basic Human Rights in Many Countries

Various estimates put the number of Christians facing human rights violations at up to 200 million, or almost 10 percent of the estimated Christians worldwide. In many countries, Christians are denied basic rights afforded even vicious criminals in Western nations. Christians are often detained and held indefinitely without charges. They are denied basic medical care. They are often tried in court without any legal counsel. Torture is common. Not surprisingly, the countries near the top of the World Watch List are the most egregious offenders in this area.


4. Christians Face Increasing Violence in Africa

In many countries where Muslims are a majority, those who proclaim their faith in Jesus Christ are suffering. Sometimes, this persecution is subtle, but that’s rarely the case in North Africa, where Muslim attacks on Christians have become bolder and more horrific in recent years — even in countries where Christians are a majority. In Cameroon, which is roughly 40 percent Christian and 20 percent Muslim, Islamic terrorists stopped four Christians traveling near Lake Chad in February 2013 and executed them. Here is a link to other similar events that month, compiled by the Gatestone Institute, detailing the deadly persecution of Christians in many African countries.


3. The Christian Population Has Plunged Dramatically in the Middle East

The persistent persecution of Christians, especially in countries with a strong Muslim influence, has certainly discouraged many of the Christian faith from practicing in those areas. For one striking example, in the Middle East — the birthplace of Jesus Christ and the rise of Christianity — only 4 percent of the population is Christian. That figure stood at 20 percent a century ago, according to the 2012 study conducted by the Pew Forum, which also included data from select North African countries.


2. United States Not Immune to Horrors of Persecution

Although violent persecution of Christians is extremely rare in the United States, it happens. In early 2013, New Jersey authorities arrested a Muslim man and charged him with killing two Christians. The man allegedly beheaded the victims and dismembered the bodies, in what several reports labeled as ritual slayings.


1. Christianity Persisting in Many Countries Despite Threats

The aforementioned World Watch List has ranked North Korea No. 1 for each of the past 11 years as the most dangerous place in the world for Christians. Religions of all type are forbidden in this communist dictatorship, but Christians face especially cruel punishment. While public executions of Christians are relatively rare, thousands of Christians are seized each year and sentenced to hard labor. Open Doors estimates up to 70,000 Christians are imprisoned in what it calls “concentration camps.” Despite this persecution, the organization estimates there is a persistent underground Christian movement in North Korea, with up to 400,000 members.



For more information on Christian persecution worldwide, visit OpenDoorsUSA.org.


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The author is a longtime professional journalist who has interviewed everyone from presidential contenders to hall of fame athletes to rock 'n' roll legends while covering politics, sports, and other topics for both local and national publications and websites. His latest passions are history, geography and travel. He's traveled extensively around the United States seeking out the hidden wonders of the country.