Afghanistan’s Taliban, Nigeria’s Islamist militants and Iran’s supreme leader are among the world’s top persecutors of Christians, according to an annual report by an international advocacy group.
International Christian Concern (ICC) reported Wednesday that persecution in Afghanistan is at “its highest levels since the Taliban’s first government, established in 1996,” and that tens of thousands of Nigerian Christians have died at the hands of the Islamic fundamentalist Fulani militants since 2000.
“This report isn’t a list of sad, small statistics happening somewhere in the world, far-removed from us,” ICC President Jeff King said in a statement. “Many of these are mass human rights violations, with some approaching genocide.
“Religious freedom is an issue that affects people of all faiths and is a key driver in political freedom. This report is a wake-up call to churches in the West and a challenge to know the truth and act on it.”
According to the group’s Persecutors of the Year report, the top four countries are China, whose attempts at “sinicization” of religions has led to persecution; Algeria, which has closed dozens of Protestant churches; Egypt, where Coptic Christians are under threat; and Pakistan, where fundamentalists have persecuted Christians and other religious minorities.
What’s more, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei “exerts control over every aspect of Iranian life, both physically and spiritually,” allowing many Iranian Christians to suffer “brutal torture and execution,” the ICC reported, citing the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a persecutor of Christians.
The group also identified as persecutors:
• Hindu nationalist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which “trains and conspires to create mobs and incite violence against India’s Christian population.”
• Al-Shabab, the Somalia-based Islamist group that has attacked Christians in Kenya and Ethiopia along with its home nation.
• The Allied Democratic Forces/Islamic State Central Africa Province, operating in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
• Militia groups in Africa’s Sahel region, including al Qaeda, Boko Haram, Jamaat Nusrat Al-Islam Wal Muslimeen and spinoff groups from the Islamic State.
The ICC’s list of individual “top persecutors” includes Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Nigerian political leader Nasir El-Rufai.
Mr. Erdoğan’s administration conducted airstrikes against villages in Iraq and Syria that have put Christians there “in constant fear,” the group says. He has attacked Christian heritage sites in Turkey, and his government “continues to suffocate” the Christian communities in the nation.
Mr. Kim “upholds the reign of terror” on North Korea’s estimated 400,000 Christians started by his grandfather and continued by his father, the ICC says, adding that it believes 50,000 to 70,000 Christians are being held in North Korean prison camps.
Mr. El-Rufai, governor of Nigeria‘s Kaduna state, “has repeatedly placed entire Christian communities under house arrest after they were attacked by Nigeria’s Fulani militants, leaving them increasingly vulnerable to additional attacks, which have left hundreds dead,” the ICC report states.