Nigeria, the Taliban and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un have received the dubious recognition of “Persecutor of the Year” by the research and advocacy group International Christian Concern.
Jeff King, the group’s president, said most Westerners are unaware of the extent of Christian persecution in Nigeria.
“They think of Nigeria as the business hub of [West] Africa, which it is, and yet they’re totally unaware of what’s going on under the surface,” Mr. King said Tuesday in a telephone interview.
According to the group’s report: “Nigeria is one of the deadliest places on earth for Christians, as 50,000 to 70,000 have been killed since 2000.” The country “is home to the infamous Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram, which has displaced millions of people and killed tens of thousands of others.“
Mr. King says his organization operates farms in safe areas of Nigeria where Christian refugees can live and re-establish their lives.
The Taliban, a hardline Islamist group that ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, regained power in August, when the U.S.-led allied coalition abandoned the Central Asian nation. Now, Christians — a tiny community comprised exclusively of converts from Islam — are enemy No. 1, Mr. King said.
“They’ve been going door-to-door there, saying ‘Who’s going to the mosque, who’s not there?’” he said.
The Taliban has been “calling Christians and saying, ‘We know who you are.’ And then, the first murder of [a Christian] just happened,” Mr. King added. They “found a Bible on his cellphone and they grabbed him, and he’s disappeared. That means he was taken and he was tortured to see if he would return to Islam, and to see who else he would cough up. And then he was killed.”
During Mr. Kim’s rule since 2012, “countless individuals in North Korea have lost their lives, been tortured, or sentenced to long terms of hard labor for their faith,” according to the International Christian Concern’s report. “As Supreme Leader, Kim is morally and legally responsible for the systematic abuses perpetrated by the system he heads.”
The research group also noted China, India, Iran, Myanmar, Pakistan, and Turkey as oppressors of Christians and other religious minorities. Among entities cited were Islamist groups Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram, as well as Turkey’s Grey Wolves and India’s Sangh Parivar.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Nasir El-Rufai, governor of Nigeria’s Kaduna State, also were cited as leading persecutors.
Mr. King said Mr. Modi, who recently visited Pope Francis at the Vatican and invited the pontiff to India, is among those politicians in his BJP party who “quietly” encourage persecution of Christians in the majority Hindu nation.
“Everyone knows what the BJP believes and what Modi believes on the ground. People know what he stands for. He’s a fundamentalist Hindu, he is part and parcel of the problem,” he said.
Mr. King said his group’s annual report is designed to educate media and governmental leaders on the extent of Christian persecution overseas.
“We wanted to create a primer for the government and for the press,” he said. “So they could easily understand very complex topics that are going on around the world that involve culture, religion, and geopolitics.”
He added that the report is intended to motivate believers.
“At the same time, the bottom answer is we want people to pray. We’re a Christian organization. We believe in the power of prayer, but after that, it cannot stop there,” he said. “We want people to pick up the phone and call their elected leaders and to say, this is not right. We need to bring pressure on these people.”