The global persecution of Christians is still increasing, Christian charity Open Doors has found.
Its 2017 World Watch List, which monitors countries where religious persecution is at its worst, stated that over 200 million Christians experience a high level of persecution for their faith.
The report also highlighted a “disturbing rise of religio-ethnic nationalism” as the “main engine of persecution” in most of the countries where persecution is at its worst.
The report urged the UK government to recognise the multifaceted nature of persecution and assess not only its violent aspects, but also “legal, social and political oppression”.
It continued: “This more subtle, and sometimes less visible, persecution creates a breeding ground for violent and radical groups.
“Working to limit social, legal and political persecution can greatly reduce violent attacks in the long term.”
‘Harassed and intimidated’
Lisa Pearce, CEO of Open Doors UK and Ireland, said it was important to speak up for the rights of people of faith.
“Freedom of Religion or Belief cannot remain the Cinderella of human rights”, she said.
“Freedom of Religion or Belief cannot remain the Cinderella of human rights”
In December, the European Parliament highlighted Christian persecution in its annual report on human rights.
It stated: “Christians are currently the religious group most harassed and intimidated in countries throughout the world, including in Europe”.
This year marks the 25th year that Open Doors has produced its World Watch List. The 2017 report identified some of the major trends in Christian persecution over this time.
A rise in Islamic extremism has contributed to Sudan, Somalia and Iran being three of the ten worst countries for religious persecution in the last 25 years. All three are in the top ten in 2017.
Religious nationalism fuelled the persecution of Christians in Asia over that time, especially in India where 39 million of the 64 million Christians have faced direct persecution.
North Korea is still classified as “the most difficult” place in the world to be a Christian and the number of Christians killed or imprisoned appears to be increasing. An estimated 70,000 are imprisoned in labour camps.
However, in China, persecution of Christians is receding, and the church has doubled in size from 50 million Christians in the 1980s to nearly 100 million today.