Open Doors Lists Top 10 Persecutors of Christians Worldwide

(Photo: REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)A Christian boy walks with a priest who left with his family from Al-Arish city North Sinai's Governorate capital after the escalation of a campaign targeting Christians by Islamic State militants last week, walks inside the Saint Church in Ismailia, northeast of Cairo, Egypt February 27, 2017.

Over 215 million believers are persecuted with intimidation, prison, and even death for their faith in Jesus Christ across the world, Open Doors USA says in a report, listing the top 10 persecutors of Christians.

The report, released this week, notes that hostility against Christians is particularly intense in some areas "due to the focused efforts of either one person or a larger system bent on smashing or squeezing out Christians in the region."  

Half of the top 10 human rights offenders toward Christians are Islamist terror groups, including the Islamic State terror group, also known as IS, ISIS, ISIL or Daesh. 

The brutal and targeted attacks from ISIS have driven many Christians to flee countries like Iraq, where Christianity has had a presence for nearly 2,000 years, the report says.

"Ten years ago, there were nearly 1 million Christians living in Iraq, with a large majority of the population living in Mosul. Today, ISIS has been driven out of Iraq and Syria for the most part, but now they are spreading to Southeast Asia. AbÅ« Bakr al-Baghdadi is the current leader of ISIS in western Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan," it notes. 

While Islamic State was listed as No. 1, the list is not comprehensive or in particular order, the ministry notes.

The second persecutor of Christians listed is the al-Qaeda terror group, which has not been in news much but "has continued to fight in countries throughout the Middle East, often marking Christian communities as specific targets." 

The report mentions particularly Yemen, where Christian converts from Islam are particularly at risk as they are already treated as outcasts by their own communities. "As Al-Qaeda takes advantage of distracted governments, Christians in their path experience intense persecution. Ayman al-Zawahiri, is the current leader of Al-Qaeda."

Third on the list is North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who met with President Donald Trump at a summit in Singapore earlier this month for an agreement on denuclearization.

North Korea continues to be the most hostile place in the world to be a Christian. According to Open Doors, anywhere from 50,000 to 70,000 Christians are suffering in labor camps in that country.

In 2016, a report by the U.K.-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide revealed the gruesome methods the communist government in North Korea has used to torture and kill Christians. "Documented incidents against Christians include being hung on a cross over a fire, crushed under a steamroller, herded off bridges and trampled underfoot. A policy of guilt by association applies, meaning that the relatives of Christians are also detained regardless of whether they share the Christian belief."

Hindu nationalists, "whose mission is to make India a complete Hindu nation by 2021," are also listed as a top persecutor of Christians.

"The far-right Hindu nationalist movement" seeks to wipe out any religious expression, including Christianity, that falls outside of the Hindu faith, the report says. It mentions the Hindu nationalist association Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or RSS, which "has created a culture war and made it very dangerous and difficult for many Christians living in the region who are often forced out of villages, beaten and arrested for believing in Jesus."

The governing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party in India is seen as the political wing of the RSS.

Fifth on the list is the al-Shabaab terror group, which is "in many ways the Eastern African version of al-Qaeda."

"Al-Shabaab has terrorized the country of Somalia for the past decade and is recently focusing its attacks on the neighboring country of Kenya. In 2015, a Kenya college campus faced an attack where Christian students were specifically targeted, killing 148 in total. Any place al-Shabaab controls operates under Sharia law, which includes the slaughtering of anyone who identifies as Christian."

Another top persecutor is the Boko Haram terror group in Nigeria, "whose belief is that any sort of Western influence is heresy, especially Christianity."

"Boko Haram has conducted raids, bombings and assassinations against any target it deems Western, especially churches and schools. They have taken out contracts on influential Christian leaders and are also at war with the Nigerian government," says the ministry.

Next on the list are Muslim Fulani herdsmen in northeastern Nigeria, who have been accused of aligning with Boko Haram.

The 2017 Global Terrorism Index described the herdsmen, who attack Christians regularly in southern Adamawa, as terrorists in 2014. According to the index, the Fulani are responsible for as many as 60,000 deaths since 2001.

This week, Nigerian Christian leaders warned that if the current rate of massacres continue, with hundreds of believers being killed each month, Africa's most-populous nation is on the brink of decimating its Christian population by 2043.

Open Doors further identified as a top persecutor radical Islam, which continues to spread, "aiming to bring many parts of the world under Sharia Law."

"The movement, which often results in Islamic militancy and persecution of Christians," is expanding in Asia, including the Philippines, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and in African countries like Egypt, Nigeria and Somalia.

Also making the list are drug cartels in Colombia and Mexico.

"On top of the danger that these groups bring to ordinary citizens, Christians are specifically targeted," the report says. "A soul won for Jesus is a soul lost for them," it quotes a pastor from Colombia as saying. "They know that too."

"For this reason, Christian evangelists are particularly targeted. Drug cartel leaders know that they are the greatest threat to their way of life."

Rounding out the top 10 on the Open Doors list is "the ultimate enemy," or Satan. 

"It's easy to read this list and feel hopeless in the face of so much evil. However, in Ephesians 6 we're told our war isn't a physical war, it's a spiritual one. Behind all of the atrocities listed above is Satan, who prowls this world as a roaring lion," the ministry explains. "We are also told that God's kingdom is forcefully advancing, and that in the end, Satan is overthrown and all things are made new."

Open Doors said it published the list because "Jesus commanded us, directly, to pray for our enemies." "Pray that God would stop their actions, change their hearts and shine the brilliant light of the gospel onto their path."