Hostility is particularly intense for 215 million believers across the world who are persecuted with intimidation, prison, and even death for their faith in Jesus Christ. That’s the assessment of an Open Doors USA report, listing the top persecutors of Christians.
The report, released this week, notes that hostility against Christians is particularly terrible in some areas “due to the focused efforts of either one person or a larger system bent on smashing or squeezing out Christians in the region.”
Making the list are drug cartels in Colombia and Mexico. President Trump has been critical of the Mexican government for its failure in the war against the cartels that are the cause of the drug and sex trafficking into the United States. Trump has repeatedly warned U.S. lawmakers of the danger the cartels pose and as a reason to improve the security fence or wall along the southern border.
Some analysts say that the conditions in Mexico are so bad the country could spiral into civil war as a result of the cartels and gangs.
While American media is focused on the deteriorating relationship between the U.S. and Mexico over immigration and the border wall, the real anger is directed from the Mexican people at the Mexican government over their country having become one the most violent in the world.
The country elected a far-left socialist on Sunday on his promise to do something about it. Opez Obrador won the presidential election by the widest margin in decades, promising to fight the cartels and gangs waging war on Mexican citizens, including Christians.
“On top of the danger that these groups bring to ordinary citizens, Christians are specifically targeted,” the report says. “A soul won for Jesus is a soul lost for them,” it quotes a pastor from Colombia as saying. “They know that too.”
In both Colombia and Mexico, Evangelicals offer a way out for the average citizen.
“For this reason, Christian evangelists are particularly targeted. Drug cartel leaders know that they are the greatest threat to their way of life.”
In the rest of the world, it is primarily terrorist groups that are on the list.
Half of the top human rights offenders toward Christians are Islamist terror groups, including the Islamic State terror group, also known as IS, ISIS, ISIL or Daesh.
The brutal and targeted attacks from ISIS have driven many Christians to flee countries like Iraq, where Christianity has had a presence for nearly 2,000 years, the report says.
“Ten years ago, there were nearly 1 million Christians living in Iraq, with a large majority of the population living in Mosul. Today, ISIS has been driven out of Iraq and Syria for the most part, but now they are spreading to Southeast Asia. Abū Bakr al-Baghdadi is the current leader of ISIS in western Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan,” it notes.
While Islamic State was listed as No. 1, the list is not comprehensive or in particular order, the ministry notes.
The second persecutor of Christians listed is the al-Qaeda terror group
The report mentions particularly Yemen, where Christian converts from Islam are particularly at risk as they are already treated as outcasts by their own communities. “As Al-Qaeda takes advantage of distracted governments, Christians in their path experience intense persecution. Ayman al-Zawahiri, is the current leader of Al-Qaeda.”
Third on the list is North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who met with President Donald Trump at a historic summit in Singapore earlier this month for an agreement on denuclearization.
North Korea continues to be the most hostile place in the world to be a Christian. According to Open Doors, anywhere from 50,000 to 70,000 Christians are suffering in labor camps in that country.
Hindu nationalists, “whose mission is to make India a complete Hindu nation by 2021,” are also listed as a top persecutor of Christians.
“The far-right Hindu nationalist movement” seeks to wipe out any religious expression, including Christianity, that falls outside of the Hindu faith, the report says. It mentions the Hindu nationalist association Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or RSS, which “has created a culture war and made it very dangerous and difficult for many Christians living in the region who are often forced out of villages, beaten and arrested for believing in Jesus.”
Fifth on the list is the al-Shabaab terror group, which is “in many ways the Eastern African version of al-Qaeda.”
“Al-Shabaab has terrorized the country of Somalia for the past decade and is recently focusing its attacks on the neighboring country of Kenya. In 2015, a Kenya college campus faced an attack where Christian students were specifically targeted, killing 148 in total. Any place al-Shabaab controls operates under Sharia law, which includes the slaughtering of anyone who identifies as Christian.”
Another top persecutor is the Boko Haram terror group in Nigeria, “whose belief is that any sort of Western influence is heresy, especially Christianity.”
“Boko Haram has conducted raids, bombings and assassinations against any target it deems Western, especially churches and schools. They have taken out contracts on influential Christian leaders and are also at war with the Nigerian government,” says the ministry.
Next on the list are Muslim Fulani herdsmen in northeastern Nigeria, who are aligned with Boko Haram.
According to the Global Terrorism Index, the Fulani are responsible for as many as 60,000 deaths since 2001.
This week, Nigerian Christian leaders warned that if the current rate of massacres continue, with hundreds of believers being killed each month, Africa’s most-populous nation is on the brink of decimating its Christian population by 2043.
Open Doors further identified as a top persecutor radical Islam, which continues to spread, “aiming to bring many parts of the world under Sharia Law.”
“The movement, which often results in Islamic militancy and persecution of Christians,” is expanding in Asia, including the Philippines, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and in African countries like Egypt, Nigeria and Somalia. It is even being seen in numerous predominantly immigrant neighborhoods in cities across Europe.