Christian Persecution Reaches 'Extreme' Levels in These 10 Countries

(Photo: Reuters/Stringer)A member loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant waves an ISIL flag in Raqqa June 29, 2014. The offshoot of al Qaeda which has captured swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria has declared itself an Islamic "Caliphate" and called on factions worldwide to pledge their allegiance, a statement posted on jihadist websites said on Sunday. The group, previously known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIS, has renamed itself "Islamic State" and proclaimed its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghadi as "Caliph" - the head of the state, the statement said.

The persecution of Christians has intensified in at least four countries worldwide, increasing the number of nations where believers endure harsh suffering from six to 10 in just two years, according to the Christian persecution watchdog organization Aid to the Church in Need U.K.

The organization has released a report titled "Persecuted and Forgotten? A report on Christians oppressed for their Faith 2013-2015" that reveals the rapid growth of Christian persecution in nations such as China, Iran, Pakistan, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia within the last two years.

The report was presented to the Parliament's House of Lords last week and was compiled by ACNUK members John Pontifex, John Newton and Clare Creegan.

"Over [the] last 48 months the situation [for Christians] has become worse in countries including, China and Indonesia, Iraq, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Sudan and Syria. These are countries that show a massive deterioration of the position for Christians and indeed other minorities," said Pontifex, who discussed the document with Vatican radio last week.

"In fact, the number of countries which seem to be extreme in terms of persecution of Christians rose from six to 10 within this time frame of the last two years.

"What this report seeks to set out is the extent to which Christians have been forced from their homelands as a result of what we are describing as religiously motivated ethnic cleansing of Christians," he added.

Pontifex further explained that he's concerned Christianity could be completely eradicated from countries such as Iraq, where the population of believers has dropped to around 200,000 from over 1 million in 2002.

"This means that we're on course now to see potential eradication of Christianity from Iraq potentially within five years, if indeed trends continue as they have," continued Pontifex. "If you consider that of the 200,000 Christians 100,000 of them are displaced, looking for an exit from Iraq, you can see just how close to a point of eradication we are."

"I use that word eradication advisedly because Christians have [by] no means sought to leave Iraq out of wish to do so. They feel they've been driven out by the attacks in Mosul and the Nineveh plains where Christians have been driven out by IS who've given them a 'choice,' — either convert or die," he emphasized.

Pontifex said the driving away of Christians in Iraq and even Nigeria by radical groups could limit the reach of the faith and the persecution might lead to a day in which people will no longer be able to say that Christianity is a global religion.

Christians have been tormented by Boko Haram in Nigeria, but radical Islam is not the only culprit for the growth of Christian persecution throughout the world.

The Chinese government has also restricted Christians from worshiping freely, according to the report.

The situation for believers has worsened significantly for Christians since 2013 with the demolition of churches, banning of public crosses, and the Catholic Church being denied the right to carry out its mission work in China.

The persecution of Christians in Syria, Pakistan and Sudan has also worsened in the last two years, according to the report.

Christians in Sudan have suffered under the ultra-orthodox Islamist agenda of President Omar al-Bashir, while attacks from terrorist and extremist groups have plagued the lives of believers inside Syria and Pakistan.

Similarly, India has seen an increase in Christian persecution since 2013, as Hindu extremist groups have sprung up with an agenda to push them to the lower tier of society.

"We have seen in other faith communities extremist groups detach from the mainstream who are putting pressure on Christians. So if you look at India, extremist [Hindu] groups have put pressure on the Christians and other minorities by targeting churches, sporadic attacks in other ways, and making it very difficult for them to live out their faith," said Pontifex.

The Aid to the Church in Need U.K. hopes the report will wake up governments, the Church and other groups in society to the possibility of Christianity being eradicated from the Middle East all together in the next few years.

Contact: Vincent.funaro@christianpost.com; follow me on Twitter @vinfunaro