This week's update of Beltway Buzz takes us outside of the Beltway and looks at what's happening to Christians around the globe.
Believe it or not, Christians are the most persecuted demographic worldwide, though it's under-reported in the mainstream media. And, this week we learned Christian persecution is on the rise.
Open Doors, an international ministry that helps persecuted Christians under oppressive regimes, put out its annual World Watch List. The list ranks the top 50 worst countries for Christians to practice their faith.
No surprises here. The biggest offenders are the usual suspects: North Korea, Somalia, Iran, Pakistan, and Libya.
For the twelfth year running, North Korea topped the list. Believers in that country must hide their faith.
For example, possession of a Bible could result in execution or a life sentence in concentration camps known as "gulags." According to Open Doors, somewhere between 50,000 to 70,000 Christians suffer harsh treatment in North Korea's gulags.
Perhaps most concerning is Syria, where more Christians died last year than the total worldwide in 2012. The Syrian civil war places the country squarely under a trending category the WWL has been tracking. Christian persecution has increased in places considered "failed" states, where "social and political structures have collapsed to the point where government has little or no control."
David Curry, president of Open Doors, believes the reason for the rise in persecution can be summed up in two words: Islamic extremism.
"In 36 of the top 50 countries on [the] World Watch List, Islamic extremism is the main driver of persecution," Curry said. "It is very dangerous to be a Christian in a country where Islamic extremism is prevalent."
Christians in the West have an obligation to stand with their brothers and sisters who are persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ. We must not be silent.
Katrina Lantos Swett, vice chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, encouraged Christians and churches to speak out for their fellow believers in a recent interview with CBN News. She noted many ancient and historic Christian communities are threatened like never before.
"One of the most powerful things that individual communities, church communities, and people as individuals can do is to reach out to their member of Congress and say, 'You know what: this is a top priority with me and I want to know what you are doing about it,'" Swett said.
The other thing believers need to do is raise their voices toward heaven in prayer for God still hears the cry of his people.
Jesus warned his followers that the world will hate them because it hated him first. (John 15:18)
But he also reminded them, "Great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you." (Matt. 5:12)