According to a report from Christian persecution watchdog Open Doors USA, Islamic extremists killed twice as many Christians in 2014 than they did in 2013, and North Korea is currently the country most hostile toward Christians for the thirteenth year.
In fact, 2014 is already going down in the books as the year with the "highest level of global persecution of Christians," according to the research group, and the study suggests that the worst is yet to come.
"Approximately 100 million Christians are persecuted worldwide, making them one of the most persecuted religious groups in the world," according to the study. "Islamic extremism is the main source of persecution in 40 of the 50 countries on the 2015 World Watch List. While persecution can take many forms, Christians throughout the world risk imprisonment, torture, rape and even death as result of their faith."
The study, which ran from November 1, 2013 to October 31, 2014, showed that 4,344 Christians were killed at the hands of Muslim extremists during that time, as opposed to 2,123 in 2013.
"Even Christian-majority states are experiencing unprecedented levels of exclusion, discrimination and violence," said David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors USA. "The 2015 World Watch List reveals that a staggering number of Christians are becoming victims of intolerance and violence because of their faith. They are being forced to be more secretive about their faith."
Broken down by global region, the Middle East remains one of the most violent places on Earth for Christians with the third (Iraq), fourth (Syria), and fifth (Afganistan) entries on the list all being Middle Eastern countries.
But Africa saw the most rapid growth of persecution. Somalia came in as the second country on the list of Christian persecutors along with Sudan (6th) and neighbor Eritrea (9). Kenya, while only 19th on the list, made the largest jump from last year's spot at number 43.
But it's North Korea's own Atheist population that has retained its spot as the number one persecutor of Christians in the world. "The god-like worship of the leader, Kim Jong-Un, and his predecessors leaves little room for any other religions and Christians face unimaginable pressure in every sphere of life," the study describes. "Meeting with other Christians is virtually impossible. Anyone discovered engaging in unauthorized religious activity is subject to arrest, arbitrary detention, disappearance, torture and/or execution. Those Christians who attempt to return to North Korea from China are sentenced to life in prison or executed. Leader Kim Jong-Un purged 10,000 North Koreans last year, including some Christians."
Open Doors has been monitoring Christian persecution since the 1970s and the group's method for measurement is described in great deal on its website. The independently monitored list scores each country on several impulses, including tribal impules like Islamic extremism, religious militancy, and tribal antagonism to secular impulses like communist oppressions or aggressive secularism to exploitative impulses like corruption or the totalitarian paranoia that's seen in North Korea.
And finally, the proportion, influences, intensity, and frequency of the persecution is factored in, giving the final score. Be sure to check out the complete list at the Open Doors USA website for complete information on the scores, each country's ranking, and even how you can specifically pray for each country.