An analysis of media reports and crime statistics by a watchdog group has led to shocking findings supported not only by the International Institute of Religious Freedom, but by Pope Francis.

David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors USA, an organization that monitors reports of persecution not only of Christians, but of persons of all faiths around the world, said that the year was “the most violent for Christians in modern history… on a level akin to ethnic cleansing.”

Curry cited figures indicating that over 7,000 Christians were murdered during 2015 solely for “faith-related reasons.” The number was up 3,000, nearly 50 percent, from the previous year, not including instances of persecution involving assault, rape, imprisonment, or torture, or the loss of a home or job by a Christian for their faith.

Open Doors USA defines the term “Christian persecution” as hostility experienced by a person solely as a result of their identification with Christ.

Curry also announced the organization’s annual ranking of countries based on their persecution of Christians, noting that North Korea once again tops the list for the 14th consecutive year.

Islamic extremist factions and governments in Iraq (#2), Afghanistan (#4) and Syria (#5) were found to target any religion that differed from their own view, including other Muslims, Yazidis and Jews.

Pakistan (#6), Iran (#9) and Libya (#10), also hotbeds of Islamic extremism, rounded out the top ten on the list.

Curry said Open Door USA releases the list on an annual basis in part to draw attention of leaders and policymakers in the United States to the persecution of Christians as they face “total lack of religious freed, forced migration and even genocide around the world.”

Pope Francis took the opportunity of a weekly mass to compare the persecution of first century Christians by Herod to the brutalities faced by many Christians in the present day while world powers remain silent, saying “these atrocious inhuman and incomprehensible persecutions are still present in many parts of the world today, often under the silent gaze of all.”

“Perhaps more than in the early days, Christians are persecuted, killed, driven out, despoiled, only because they are Christians.”


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