One would think that we could reach a point where everyone would leave alone people they disagree with and at least let them worship in peace in their church, synagogue or mosque. That should be a simple task.

Unfortunately that is not the case as governments and some terrorist groups are cracking down on religious minorities. In fact, the situation is getting worse. Open Doors, a religious watchdog organization, reports that for the third year in a row, the persecution of Christians worldwide has hit another high. 

Islamic extremism has been the chief cause of the persecution of Christians, and in fact Christians are gradually becoming extinct in certain parts of the Middle East. Open Doors says, however, that Islamic extremism now has a rival as far as being a persecutor of Christians: ethnic nationalism.

Approximately 215 million Christians experience high, very high or extreme persecution, and for the 14th consecutive year North Korea remains the most dangerous place to be a Christian.

Islamic extremism remains the global dominant driver of persecution, Open Doors says, responsible for initiating oppression and conflict in 35 of the “top 50 countries” that persecute Christians.

Unfortunately, ethnic nationalism is fast becoming a major driver of persecution.

“While this took an anti-establishment form in the West, in Asia it took an anti-minorities form, dueled by dramatic religious nationalism and government insecurity,” according to Open Doors. “It is common — and easy — for tottering governments to gain quick support by scapegoating Christians.”

The killings of Christians in Nigeria saw an increase of more than 62 percent, and the most violent country is Pakistan, which rose to No. 5 on the list for a level of violence “exceeding even northern Nigeria.”

Much of the persecution is coming in countries that supposedly are our allies, including India. Open Doors noted that India rose to its highest rank ever, No. 15, amid the continued rise of Hindu nationalism.

“An average of 40 incidents were reported per month, including pastors beaten, churches burned and Christians harassed,” the organization reported. “Of the 64 million Christians in India, approximately 39 million experience direct persecution.”

Afghanistan, which the U.S. is spending billions of dollars each year to stabilize, is the second worst offender on the list.

“Afghanistan is a tragedy considering the efforts being made by the international community to help rebuild Afghanistan are failing to ensure freedom of religion,” said David Curry, Open Doors USA president and CEO. “Reports of violence and human rights atrocities from North Korea are pervasive. While the situation faced by Christians in Afghanistan may be underestimated, it is hard for westerners to imagine a second country could nearly meet the levels of persecution seen in North Korea, but Afghanistan has reached that level this year.”

Sometime-ally Pakistan is now No. 5 on the list of top persecutors of Christians and recorded the most violence against Christians in 2017. The country also scored highest in church attacks, abductions and forced marriages, according to Open Doors.

That country recently drew the ire of President Donald Trump, who cut off Pakistan’s military aid over frustrations with alleged Pakistani assistance given to terrorists in Afghanistan. The same day, the U.S. State Department announced the addition of Pakistan to a new “special watch list” of governments or entities that “engage in or tolerate” severe religious freedom violations, yet aren’t bad enough to be named a “country of particular concern.”

Nigeria (No. 14), where Boko Haram operates, and the Central African Republic (No. 35) ranked second and third for violence.

Rounding out the top 10 (or should they be named the bottom 10), following North Korea and Afghanistan, are Somalia, Sudan, Pakistan, Eritrea, Libya, Iraq, Yemen and Iran.

It is not a coincidence that all of these countries — except North Korea and Eritrea — are predominantly Muslim. The Islamist movement is “the part of Islam that embraces a clear political agenda for bringing nations under Muslim domination and sharia law,” according to Open Doors. 

Far more attention needs to be given by the United States and the United Nations to telling the world about this widespread — and growing — persecution of Christians.

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