In 2015, nine out of the top ten countries where Christians suffer “extreme persecution” had populations that are at least 50 percent Muslim, a phenomenon replicated in 2016.
The 2015 report found that “Islamic extremism is by far the most significant persecution engine” of Christians in the world today and that “40 of the 50 countries on the World Watch List are affected by this kind of persecution.”
The 2016 list places Iraq in second place, immediately after North Korea, with horrific Islamic violence dominating news headlines during 2015. Throughout the year, Christians were forced to flee their homes by the thousands or be killed.
Just this week, the United Nations released an extensive report on Islamic State violence in Iraq, and estimates that ISIS currently holds some 3,500 people, mostly women and children, in the country.
The report, jointly issued by U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq and U.N. human rights office in Geneva, declared ISIS atrocities in Iraq to be “war crimes, crimes against humanity, and possibly genocide.”
Some of the crimes described in the report include executions by shooting, beheading, bulldozing, burning alive and throwing people off the top of buildings.
The other nations making the top ten in Christian persecution are Eritrea, Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Iran, and Libya, all of which have Muslim majorities.
The report underscores the geographical extent of Christian persecution, and Curry highlighted the global nature of the problem, noting that it has become more acute not just in a few isolated regions, but “in every continent in every country.”
“The levels of exclusion, discrimination and violence against Christians is unprecedented, spreading and intensifying,” Curry added. “Christians, longing to stay in their home countries, are being forced to flee for their lives and for their children’s lives,” he said.
The Centre for the Study of Global Christianity in the United States estimates that 100,000 Christians now die every year, targeted because of their faith – that is 11 every hour. The Pew Research Center says that hostility to religion reached a new high in 2012, when Christians faced some form of discrimination in 139 countries, almost three-quarters of the world's nations.
All this seems counter-intuitive here in the West where the history of Christianity has been one of cultural dominance and control ever since the Emperor Constantine converted and made the Roman Empire Christian in the 4th century AD.
Yet the plain fact is that Christians are languishing in jail for blasphemy in Pakistan, and churches are burned and worshippers regularly slaughtered in Nigeria and Egypt, which has recently seen its worst anti-Christian violence in seven centuries.