(Photo: Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)
A top Vatican official has released a "shocking" report to the U.N. estimating that over 100,000 Christians are killed every year for reasons relating to their faith.
"Credible research has reached the shocking conclusion that an estimate of more than 100,000 Christians are violently killed because of some relation to their faith every year. Other Christians and other believers are subjected to forced displacement, to the destruction of their places of worship, to rape and to the abduction of their leaders – as it recently happened in the case of Bishops Yohanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yaziji, in Aleppo," Monsignor Silvano Maria Tomasi said in his U.N. report, according to Vatican Radio.
The archbishop was referring to the kidnappings of Archbishop of Aleppo, Mar Gregorios Ibrahim, and Greek Orthodox Archbishop Metropolitan Paul Yazigi, two prominent Christian leaders in Syria who are still missing a month after they were taken.
Tomasi's statement was made earlier this week at the 23rd Session of the Human Rights Council Interactive Dialogue in Generva, Switzerand.
The Vatican bishop also pointed out in the report that Christianity was being marginalized in the West.
"In addition, in some Western countries where historically the Christian presence has been an integral part of society, a trend emerges that tends to marginalize Christianity in public life, ignore historic and social contributions and even restrict the ability of faith communities to carry out social charitable services."
Tomasi reminded the U.N. that the Catholic Church alone operates hundreds of thousands of kindergartens, primary and secondary schools around the world, including colleges and universities that educate millions of pupils. Other services impacting the lives of millions around the world, offered without distinction of religion or race, include the many church-operated hospitals, social rehabilitation centers, and care centers for the disabled and elderly.
"To such data about social action activity, there should be added the assistance services carried out in refugee camps and to internally displaced people and the accompaniment of these uprooted persons. This service certainly doesn't call for discrimination against Christians," Tomasi offered.
While the exact number of Christians killed every year around the world is difficult to determine, watchdog groups such as Persecution.Org have said that the persecution of believers around the world has definitely been on the rise over the last decade, especially in places like Africa and the Middle East.
"Two-hundred million Christians currently live under persecution. It's absolutely on the rise," Persecution.Org president Jeff King shared with Fox News.
"It's easing in the old Communist world and it's rising in the Islamic world," King said, pointing out countries like Egypt, Pakistan and Nigeria. In Indonesia, a killing spree between 1998 and 2003 resulted in the deaths of 10,000 Christians.
"Whatever the numbers, no one should die for professing or practicing their faith, whatever that faith is," said Jane Zimmerman, the State Department's deputy assistant secretary to Suzan Johnson Cook, ambassador-at-large for religious freedom.
"The United States firmly supports the freedom to profess and practice one's faith, to believe or not to believe, and to change one's beliefs. As Secretary Kerry said on May 20, religious freedom 'is a birthright of every human being.'"