Islamic Extremism Remains Top Driver in Persecution of Christians Across Globe, Says Open Doors

(Photo: Reuters/Thomas Peter)A woman holds a cross during a rally organized by Iraqi Christians in Germany denouncing persecution by the Islamic State terror group against Christians living in Iraq, in Berlin, Aug. 17, 2014.

While the Islamic State has largely been driven out of Iraq and Syria, various Islamic extremist groups remain the largest persecutors of Christians around the world, according to a new report from Open Doors USA.

The Christian organization recently released a list highlighting some of the greatest human rights offenders toward Christians, noting that 215 million believers face intimidation, prison — even death — for their faith in Jesus Christ across the globe.

"Islamic oppression" was overwhelmingly identified as the top driver of Christian persecution, with the majority of the groups identified by Open Doors falling under the umbrella of Islamic extremism.

"Islamic Oppression is one of the most widely recognized sources of persecution for Christians in the world today — and it continues to spread — aiming to bring many parts of the world under Sharia law," says Open Doors. "The movement, which often results in Islamic militancy and persecution of Christians, is expanding in Asia (Philippines, Bangladesh, Indonesia) and Africa (Egypt, Nigeria, Somalia)."

After killing and displacing thousands of Christians in Iraq and Syria over a span of three years, IS lost its last stronghold in Iraq in late 2017. However, the group isn't finished with its reign over terror, says Open Doors, as it's now spreading to Southeast Asia.

Al-Qaeda, another Islamic extremist group, has also continued to fight in countries throughout the Middle East, often marking Christian communities as specific targets. Open Doors notes that the group, led by Ayman al-Zawahiri, "takes advantage of distracted governments" to inflict "intense persecution" on Christians.

In Eastern Africa, the radical Islamic terrorist group al-Shabaab continues to terrorize Christians, particularly in Somalia and Kenya, says Open Doors. The group operates under Sharia law, which includes the slaughtering of anyone who identifies as Christian.

Al-Shabaab took responsibility for the slaughter of 148 people, mostly students, at Garissa University College in Kenya in 2015, where gunmen took over 700 students hostage, killing the Christians and freeing the Muslims.

Open Doors identified Nigerian Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram as another primary persecutor of Christians, noting that the group has for years "conducted raids, bombings and assassinations against any target it deems Western, especially churches and schools."

Also in Nigeria, Hausa-Fulani Muslim Herdsman pose a threat to Christian communities that "may arguably be even worse than Boko Haram," says Open Doors.

"Clashes with militants among the predominantly Muslim group have claimed thousands of Christian lives as they raze entire villages and brutally kill and rape," says the group. "However, unlike the atrocities and attacks of Boko Haram, Fulani violence has gone relatively unreported in national news headlines."

Other groups responsible for carrying out persecution against Christians include drug cartels in Colombia and Mexico; the Kim Jong-un regime in North Korea; and Hindu Nationalists in India. Behind it all, says Open Doors, is "Satan, who prowls this world as a roaring lion."

The organization clarified it shared the list of Christian persecutors "not to stir up anger — although righteous anger is expected — but to move us all toward prayer and action."

"So as we pray against the evil mentioned in this article, we can also pray hopefully that God's kingdom would come, and His will would be done," says Open Doors. "Here on earth now, and then in completion for eternity."