Jesus told his followers the world would hate them, and that suffering is a consequence of the Christian faith. So, why are Christians surprised and why do governments and the global church remain silent?
Two thousand years after Christ's crucifixion and resurrection, Christians face more danger than ever before. Around the world, each day 260-million Christians suffer for their faith and the persecution is steadily getting worse. 2,983 Christians died for faith-related reasons last year and nearly 9,500 churches were attacked.
North Korea topped the Open Doors Watch List of worst offending countries.
"There are 60,000 Christians in labor camps for owning a bible and many of them died there," said Open Doors USA President and CEO David Curry.
North Korea Imprisons Christians and Their Family Members
The Voice of the Martyrs Radio host Todd Nettleton explains it is not only the offending Christians who are sent to prison in the Hermit Kingdom, but also their family members.
The North Korean government arrests "your parents, they arrest your children, they want to completely wipe out even the idea of a different God than the Kim family," Nettleton said.
In neighboring China, Christians say they face the worst persecution since Chairman Mao's Cultural Revolution. And high tech surveillance – including facial recognition software – is part of the communist government's effort to limit Christian activities.
Nettleton said Beijing's goal is to place 600-million active surveillance cameras around the country by the end of this year.
China's Pervasive Government Surveillance Hard on Christians
"If you think about trying to deliver Bibles, or you think about trying to meet secretly, how are you going to do that when the government is literally watching everything you do?" Nettleton asked.
Curry explained China is building a blueprint, a road map of persecution for other regimes around the world.
"And they're doing it with surveillance – with a social score that measures Christian behavior, attending church, taking your kids to Sunday school, as negative things."
Elsewhere, Islamic extremism is a major driver behind the persecution of Christians and it's not slowing down.
In fact, Curry said it's intensifying – particularly in a region of Africa known as the Sahel.
Islamic Extremism and Violence Intensifying
It's a sub-Saharan collection of countries from the west coast of Africa all the way to Eritrea on the east coast. Nigeria is the focal point where the governor of Borno says Islamic terrorism has created nearly 60,000 widows and 60,000 orphans in that state alone. Many of them are Christians.
Terrorists have abducted Christian school girls like Leah Sharibu. Kidnapped two years ago, she is now believed to have given birth to her Muslim captor's baby.
Boko Haram and ISIS-affiliated groups are the main kidnappers and killers of Nigerian Christians.
Christianity Disappearing in Some Places
Curry explained "They don't recognize borders. They want .o set up a caliphate in Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and now in Burkina Faso. So they're looking to spread out from northern Nigeria."
And because of ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and other Islamic extremists, Christianity in Iraq and Syria is on the verge of disappearing.
Prior to the fall of Saddam Hussein, nearly 1.5-million Christians called Iraq home and more than a million lived in Syria prior to war there.
Today, no more than 250-thousand Christians live in each country.
But as those numbers dwindle in Syria and Iraq, Christianity is expanding in Iran-maybe faster than anywhere in the world.
Muslims in Iran Turning to Christ By the Thousands
Perhaps a million Muslims or more have come to Christ in the Islamic Republic. Many former Muslims have started underground house churches although their conversion comes at a high price.
"They are arresting them, they are you know marginalizing them, they are taking their stuff, confiscating their items and they are giving them the choice of going to jail or leaving the country of Iran," insisted Heart for Iran Director Mike Ansari.
Although Iran is one of the fastest-growing churches in the world despite this persecution, Ansari told CBN News he expects this persecution to intensify.
"These are people who are coming from [a] Muslim background, [a] Shiite background. They have decided to follow Jesus and they say we have a story that needs to be told and that is a story of transformation and hope," Ansari explained.
Nettleton urges Christians to remember persecuted, faithful followers of Jesus around the world.
"Hopefully we understand these are our family members, these are our brothers and sisters so if they're suffering, if there's something I can do to help, I want to do that."
At the urging of the United States, 27-nations have formed a new religious freedom alliance to combat worldwide persecution.
But will it be enough?
Nettleton, Curry, and others say it is time for the American church to wake up and make the suffering of global Christians a top priority.
The kind of persecution taking place around the world today has been going on for 2,000 years of Church history. In the Fifth Century, St. Patrick endured persecution, imprisonment, and torture as he spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to Ireland. Now CBN Films is releasing a powerful new movie about his life. "I Am Patrick" hits theaters March 17 and 18 only. You can get your tickets HERE.