A new study has found that the persecution of Christians today around the world may be worse than ever before.
"In terms of the numbers of people involved, the gravity of the crimes committed and their impact, it is clear that the persecution of Christians is today worse than at any time in history," reads the report, released by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
The report, entitled Persecuted and Forgotten? A report on Christians oppressed for their Faith, says that in addition to the terrible persecution against Christians, a higher number of Christians are experiencing the worst forms of persecution.
Countries surveyed for the report included Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, India, China, North Korea, Egypt, Nigeria, and Syria.
For 12 of the 13 countries reviewed, rates of persecution had worsened overall from 2015-2017 compared to the previous two-year term. In the case of Saudi Arabia, persecution was already so atrocious against Christians that "it could scarcely get any worse," the executive summary reads.
Seizure of church properties by the Turkish state, Christians sent to political internment camps in North Korea, and rising attacks on Christians in Nigeria are just a few of the country-specific acts against believers in the areas surveyed detailed in the report.
In two cases, countries rose in persecution rates, including India, which changed from the category of 'high' persecution to 'high and extreme,' and Turkey, which increased from 'moderate' to 'moderate to high.'
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Surges of violence and displacement of Christians due to political unrest and destabilization are major contributors to the growing persecution rates recorded. In places such as Iraq, Syria, and Egypt, the report found that extremist groups still pursued a primary objective of eradicating Christians and other minority groups. As a result, the report found conclusively that Christians in both Syria and Iraq have become victims of genocide.
Allowance for the continual deterioration of treatment directed towards Christians was largely attributed to inaction by governing bodies around the world and a lack of protection by authorities within affected regions.
"Failure by governments to take the necessary steps to stop genocide and bring the perpetrators to justice – as set out in the genocide convention – represented a significant setback for suffering Christians," the report reads.
Religious nationalism and evidence of the West fuelling extremist groups through trade agreements are also cited as reasons for the increasing persecution of believers across the globe.
The story of Elias, a Christian in Syria whose name was changed in the report for protection, describes his encounter with ISIS. Bound to a cross by the extremist group, Elias was only able to escape when a bomb explosion prompted his jailors to flee for their safety. Later, the Christian was jailed for defending himself after militants seized him for being unable to pay costs imposed on him for his faith.
Other stories throughout the report detail various extreme accounts of persecution taking place around the world against Christians for their beliefs, often at the cost of their lives.
The gravity of the ACN report is significant. "Not only is Christianity still the world’s most oppressed faith community but also that in many cases genocide and other crimes against humanity now mean that the Church in core countries and regions faces the possibility of imminent wipe-out," the report concludes.
ACN is a Catholic charity organization that provides support to persecuted and oppressed Christians in need of care in more than 140 countries worldwide.