Every five minutes, one Christian is martyred for their faith across the globe, a sobering new report from the persecution watchdog group Christian Freedom International has revealed.
According to a series of infographs released by the group, 200 million Christians face persecution for their faith in Jesus Christ, and more Christians have been killed for their beliefs in the 20th and 21st centuries than the previous 19 combined.
The statistics were released ahead of this year's International Day of Prayer, which falls on Nov. 8. On this day, Christian Freedom International is encouraging all Christian churches to join them in praying for the safety of those who are being persecuted for their faith.
"I encourage you to pray for Persecuted Believers," CFI president Jim Jacobson shared in a statement.
"They are your Christian family throughout the world. Pray for their safety; that they would be emboldened to continue sharing the Gospel even in the face of persecution; that their persecutors would also come to know Christ as they observe the courageous witness of these believers."
For those who want to participate in the event, CFI is offering a free resource kit for churches, which includes posters and bulletin inserts, Sunday school curriculum suggestions, Bible verses speaking about persecution, and other materials.
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.
While 2014 went down in the books as the year with the "highest level of global persecution of Christians," the group warned 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," an Open Doors statement said. "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."
Earlier this year, Bishop John McAreavey, the Chair of the Council for Justice and Peace of the Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference, echoed such claims, revealing Christian persecution has seen an unprecedented high in 2015.
In a presentation before the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade in May, McAreavey stated that believers are severely persecuted for their faith in a staggering 105 countries worldwide.
"In North Korea a quarter of the country's Christians live in forced labor camps. Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and the Maldives all feature in the 10 worst places to be Christian," he said. "According to the International Society for Human Rights, a non-religious organization, 80 percent of all acts of religious discrimination in the world today are directed against Christians," he continued.
The bishop reflected on statements from the Chief Rabbi of Britain, Jonathan Sacks, who recently asserted that the suffering of Christians in the Middle East is "one of the crimes against humanity of our time," comparing it to Jewish pogroms in Europe and said that he's "appalled at the lack of protest it has evoked."
The atrocities committed against Christians in the Middle East is "a threat to our common humanity and to the religious and cultural patrimony of the world" and places "peace and stability of the entire planet" at risk, the bishop warned.
He also criticized Western nations who have failed to help Christians in the Middle East: "Perhaps because of a fear of being seen as less than aggressively secular in their own country, many governments of majority Christian countries in the west seem reluctant to give direct aid to Churches and religious minorities," he said.
McAreavey cautioned that the West risks losing its own understanding of the importance of religion by ignoring the plight of Christians in the Middle East and ask his fellow believers to "urge all governments and societies to affirm the vital importance of respecting the right to religious freedom and conscience as a fundamental principle of genuine pluralism in a tolerant society."