2015 was the "worst year in modern history for Christian persecution," according to Open Doors, a human rights organization that has been documenting the persecution of Christians since 1955.
According to its latest data, more than 7,000 Christians were killed for their faith in 2015 — almost twice as many as in 2014. In addition, more than 2,400 churches were attacked, damaged or destroyed — again, more than double the number of the previous year.
In the words of Open Doors' CEO, David Curry:
The 2016 World Watch List [which ranks the 50 nations where Christians are most persecuted] documents an unprecedented escalation of violence against Christians, making this past year the most violent and sustained attack on Christian faith in modern history. ... This research has concluded that after the brutal persecution of Christians in 2014, 2015 proved to be even worse with the persecution continuing to increase, intensify and spread across the globe. ... The level of exclusion, discrimination and violence against Christians is unprecedented, spreading and intensifying.
Who or what is behind these unprecedented levels of persecution? Some of it is related to the tendency of non-Western nations to associate Christianity with the "hated West." Four are Communist nations — Vietnam (ranked #20), Laos (#29), China (#33), and North Korea (#1), where "Christianity is not only seen as 'opium for the people,' as is normal for all communist states, it is also seen as deeply Western and despicable," notes the report. Three are reclaiming their religious heritage in contradistinction to what is portrayed as a depraved West — Hindu India (#17), Buddhist Bhutan (#38) and Myanmar (#23). And two — Mexico (#40) and Columbia (#46) — are fueled by organized crime and drug cartels.
"Islamic extremism" is cited as the source of persecution for the remaining 41 nations that make the list of 50 worst persecutors of Christians. North Korea aside, the rest of the eight nations where Christians experience the worst form of persecution ("extreme persecution") are all Islamic. In 35 nations, Islamic extremism "has risen to a level akin to ethnic cleansing" of Christians.
A close examination of the report indicates that something else stands behind this rise of genocidal "Islamic extremism": U.S. foreign policy. In every Muslim nation where the U.S. has intervened in the name of "freedom and democracy," Christian life has exponentially worsened. Put differently, those who most despise "freedom and democracy" — radical and jihadi Muslims — tend to be the ones most empowered by U.S. foreign policies.
Iraq today, according to the report, is the second worst nation in the world in which to be Christian. Afghanistan is fourth, Syria fifth, and Libya tenth. A decade ago, none of these countries even made the top 10 list. Syria and Libya — when they were ruled by secular autocrats who were eventually demonized by U.S. politicians and media, and then underwent U.S. intervention — did not even make the top 20.
In 2004, Saddam Hussein's Iraq was ranked 32 and scored only 35.5 (out of 100). After a decade's worth of American lives and treasure were wasted, Iraq now scores 90 and is the worst Muslim nation in which to be Christian. The situation is the same in those other Muslim nations that the U.S. government brought "freedom and democracy" to -- and with Syria, which it continues trying to bring "freedom and democracy" to:
- Syria: A decade ago it was ranked #47 and scored only 24.5. A nation must score at least 50 to count as containing "sparse persecution." Today it is ranked #5 and scores 87 , or "extreme persecution."
- Libya: A decade ago it was ranked #22 and scored 41; today it ranks #10 and scores 79.
- Afghanistan: A decade ago it ranked #11 and scored 53; today — a decade after the U.S. declared "victory" over al-Qaeda and the Taliban — it is ranked #4 and scores 88.
Even in nations where U.S. intervention is not obvious, Christian persecution has reached unprecedented levels. In Nigeria, Boko Haram — an Islamic group possibly more savage than ISIS — slaughtered more Christians in 2015 than any other terrorist group. Yet for years the Obama administration has refused to list Boko Haram as a terrorist organization, and has argued that its violence had nothing to do with Islam and was a result of poverty and grievances. Instead, the U.S. pressured the Nigerian government to make concessions, including by building more mosques — the very structures, as the Nigerian lawyer Emmanuel Ogebe said, where Muslims are radicalized and recruited for the jihad.
Some of the hundreds of Christian Nigerian schoolgirls who were abducted last year by Boko Haram. (Image source: Boko Haram video)
In May 2013, soon after Nigerian forces killed 30 Boko Haram members in a particularly strong offensive, Reuters reported that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry "issued a strongly worded statement" to the Nigerian president: "We are ... deeply concerned by credible allegations that Nigerian security forces are committing gross human rights violations, which, in turn, only escalate the violence and fuel extremism" from Boko Haram.
Those many Americans indifferent to all this persecution "over there" would do well to connect the dots: Globally empowering forces hostile to Christians is synonymous with globally empowering forces hostile to America. Those Muslims who hate and persecute Christians also hate, and seek to persecute, Americans for exactly the same reason: Westerners all are hated non-Muslim infidels.
In short, the primary achievement of U.S. foreign policies, apart from wasted American blood and treasure -- is the unprecedented rise in Muslim nations of Islamic forces outspokenly bent on destroying America.
Raymond Ibrahim, author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam's New War in Christians (a Gatestone Publication, published by Regnery, April 2013), is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and Judith Friedman Rosen Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum.