Along with its annual "World Watch List," Open Doors USA reports that Islamic extremism is the primary driver of persecution worldwide against Christians.
In 2015, persecution of Christians increased on every continent, according to Open Doors USA president and CEO David Curry. "We've seen an unprecedented escalation of persecution of Christians," he shares. "And really, not since the first century church can you look back and see such an unrelenting threat to Christian faith."
More than 7,000 Christians were killed worldwide for faith-related reasons in the reporting period, an increase of nearly 3,000 compared to the 2015 Open Doors "World Watch List." (This excludes North Korea, and some of Syria and Iraq, where accurate records do not exist.) More than 2,400 churches were attacked or damaged, which is more than double the number from last year's list.
While North Korea with its oppressive regime ranked at the top of the ministry's list for the 14th consecutive year, Curry tells OneNewsNow the primary driving force behind the expansion of persecution continues to be Islamic extremism.
"You have these non-state actors that are persecuting Christians in a massive scale – and Islamic extremism is the driver," he adds. "We're not saying that it has to do with every Muslim, but what we are saying is ... there's a theology driving this persecution. It needs to be addressed because it is the number-one driver of persecution of Christians."
In fact, Islamic extremism is the lead generator of persecution for 35 out of the 50 nations on the list. According to a press release from Open Doors USA, the two hubs of Islamic extremism are in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa – regions where persecution has risen to a level akin to ethnic cleansing.
The top ten nations (in order) where Christians found it most dangerous and difficult to practice their faith in 2015 were North Korea, Iraq, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Iran, and Libya. In all of those countries except Libya, Christians suffer "extreme" persecution, says Open Doors.