The persecution of Christians around the world is the "tipping point" behind almost every major world crisis, a watchdog group warned during a major conference in Washington, D.C.
"This is the issue, I think, of our time. I say that with confidence because persecution, ... and particularly the persecution of Christians, is the tipping point in every major crisis around the world," said David Curry, CEO of Open Doors USA, during the 3rd Archon International Conference on Religious Freedom, a three-day conference being held in Washington, D.C.
"In North Korea, in Africa, in Iraq and Syria — it begins with persecution of Christians," he stated, according to Mission Network News.
The conference brought together Christian leaders, politicians, charity and human rights groups from around the world to talk about the ever-growing problem, given statistics that say close to 80 percent of religious persecution around the world targets Christians.
Curry noted that the conference focuses not only on leaders, but also everyday believers who are experiencing persecution for their beliefs.
"I think both approaches are terribly important — that we have senators and congressmen meeting with church officials to hear the stories of what's happening in their regions. I think it's good," Curry said, before adding, "It can't do everything.
"We need to continue to draw attention to what's happening at the grassroots level and talk about it in the halls of Congress, pray about it in churches."
Curry, whose organization documents the persecution of Christians around the world, said that when religious freedom starts to unravel, all of society begins to suffer.
"This is the issue we need to be talking about and addressing. And I think when people don't have the freedom to worship the way they choose, they basically don't have any freedom at all," he pointed out.
The Open Doors CEO said that the Advent season is a good time to pray for persecuted followers of Christ.
"[I'm] thankful for people who begin to pray now around Christmas for these folks around the [world]... I think this is an opportunity for Jesus' people to stand up in a big way and to reach out and to care for what's happening around the world and to be the moral voice," he stated.
According to The Tablet, the annual conference stems from Pope Francis' ecumenical outreach, going back to the 2014 Jerusalem Joint Declaration by Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, in which the Catholic and Orthodox leaders called for closer cooperation.
The three-day event is being hosted by the Order of St. Andrew, Archons of the Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople (Istanbul).
One of the main topics being discussed is Syria's ongoing civil war, where the historic Christian population has been decimated and driven out in masses.
Another topic is the worsening situation for Coptic Christians in Egypt, who have been heavily targeted by Islamic terrorism and government discrimination this past year.
Dr. Anthony Limberakis, national commander for the Order of St. Andrew, warned in a statement in November that Christianity "is being wiped out from the very lands in which it was born 2,000 years ago."
"By hosting the Third International Conference on Religious Freedom, the Order of St. Andrew aims to shed light on this crisis confronting Christians in the Middle East," he said.
Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America said that Christian leaders "stand in solidarity with persecuted Christians throughout the world."
"This conference provides the context for intensifying our prayers to God for the safety and well being of all Christians confronted by forces of hatred, religious intolerance and wild fanaticism. Our prayers and actions on behalf of the threatened, oppressed or persecuted Christians are accompanied by our safe and sure faith in our God, a God of love, justice and power who is under all circumstances present in our life," Demetrios stated.