Open Doors International, the "world's largest outreach to persecuted Christians in the most high-risk places," released a top 10 list, comprised of countries in which Christians have experienced the most violent incidents for their faith in Jesus Christ. The report, based on persecution incidents that have occurred between November 1, 2012 and March 31, 2014, is topped by Nigeria and Syria.
The remainder of the countries that made the list are: 3. Egypt, 4. Central African Republic (CAR), 5. Mexico, 6. Pakistan, 7. Colombia, 8. India, 9. Kenya, and 10. Iraq.
Countries With Highest Number of Christian Martyrs
Researchers also recorded countries with the highest number of Christian martyrs; Nigeria, Syria, and CAR also lead this list. These 3 countries represent 85% of the total. The estimated average number of Christians killed for their faith per month is 322.
Who is Responsible?
Geography aside, who is responsible for fueling the violence? Frans Veerman, director of World Watch Research, answers, "Islamic extremism, tribal antagonism and organized corruption are the main persecution engines fueling violence, with Islamic extremism being the major engine in seven of the top 10 countries."
On Nigeria leading the list, Open Doors USA President/CEO Dr. David Curry says, "The alarming increase of violence against Christians in Nigeria over the past months highlights the lack of religious freedom they have and the daily dangers they face from the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram and other violent Islamic organizations." Boko Haram "continues to attack Christians on a large scale by burning down and bombing churches and Christian property, and assaulting and kidnapping Christian women and girls."
According to Open Doors, the civil war and the rising influence of radical Islam have both contributed to increasing persecution against Christians. One of the largest attacks occurred in the village of Sadad, in which 45 died in an attack by Islamic militias.
Although Christians have been under attack for decades in Egypt, faith-related violence increased dramatically over the reporting period. According to Open Doors, "shortly after the military coupe that ousted President Morsi in July 2013, there was an upsurge of sectarian violence - must of it instigated by members of the Muslim Brotherhood or other radical Muslims."
Central African Republic (CAR)
Even though CAR is a Christian majority country, reports show that Séléka, an alliance of rebel militia factions, "has deliberately targeted Christian villages, killed Christians, and assaulted women and girls in the North in their quest to Islamize the country." Open Doors posits that the number of violence acts in CAR is most likely underreported, due to "limited access to resources and information on the situation in parts of the country."
Tribal antagonism and organized corruption are the main sources of violence in Christian majority Mexico. Evangelicals, Pentecostals, and Presbyterians are the main targets of violence. According to Open Doors researchers, "Latin America has always known high levels of corruption and state and insurgent violence. Christians are perpetually caught in the crossfire between tribes, guerrillas who are drug runners, landlords who are violent and soldiers running their own rackets."
The report is a continuation of the 2014 World Watch List, "a ranking of 50 countries where persecution of Christians for religious reasons is worst." For a brief summary of persecution in each of the countries on the list, see Open Doors' summary here. For Open Doors' analysis of the report, see here.