Islam's War on Christians: Worst Yet to Come?
WASHINGTON -- From the Middle East to sub-Saharan Africa, Christians are enduring attacks for their faith like never before.
"The persecution of Christians is real, it is horrifically violent often, and it is spreading at unprecedented rate in modern times," said Dr. David Curry, president of Open Doors, a group that monitors religious freedom worldwide.
Curry said Christians faced the most persecution for their faith in 2014 than any other year in recent history.
"We have seen the sharpest jump in violent attacks against Christians in the modern era," he said.
Open Doors reports that 4,344 Christians were killed for their faith in 2014 -- double the number in 2013.
"These aren't Christians who are collateral damage in a larger war; these are people who are targeted because they chose to worship Jesus and because they want to read a Bible and that's shocking," Curry said.
On Wednesday, the group released its annual World Watch List, ranking the top 50 countries where Christians face the most persecution.
North Korea topped the list again for the thirteenth year in a row, with some 70,000 Christians reportedly languishing in prison camps.
"The government has paranoia about any ideology which they see as a threat to their cult worship of their leader, and so they rank enemies of the state," Curry explained. "Christians are the No. 1 enemy of the state in North Korea."
Rounding the top 10 worst violators are Somalia, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan, Iran, Pakistan, Eritrea, and Nigeria.
But Curry said that in a majority of the countries, elements of one religion above all pose the greatest threat to Christians.
"Islamic extremism is driving force, is really the driving force in 40 of the top 50 countries on the World Watch List," he told CBN News.
The majority of the deaths last year happened in Nigeria, where kidnappings and murders by the Islamic group Boko Haram killed 2,484 Christians.
Demeris Atson has experienced Boko Haram's wrath first-hand. In 2010, her husband was stabbed to death by the Islamic fighters. She said it has taken the grace of God to forgive her husband's killers.
"If I do not forgive, the Lord will not forgive me. So I have to forgive because Jesus teaches us to forgive one another," Atson told CBN News
Meanwhile, the terrorist group known as Islamic State, or ISIS, continues to drive hundreds of thousands of Christians from Syria and Iraq.
Curry worries their success at targeting minority faiths is giving impetus to other radical groups to pursue similar tactics around the world.
"So you have the Islamic State, their tactics, their methodology now being adopted by Boko Haram, by Al-Shabab and others, and so I think this means that, while this year was the worst ever, things look very troubling for years to come," Curry said.
Open Doors says the World Watch List is a wakeup call to the tragic suffering of Christians around the world.
"We need to make the persecuted Church an issue of prayer and of support because there is a genocide happening," Curry warned.