In almost every part of the world, reports emerge daily of Christian communities falling victim to harassment and persecution. In Nigeria, on Feb. 26, three Christians were killed and dozens wounded after a car bomb exploded close to a church in the town of Jos. At least 500 people have died during the last year in attacks attributed to the Islamist group Boko Haram, which has called for all Christians to leave northern Nigeria.
In East African states such as Sudan, Christians were recently given an April 8 deadline to leave the north. The ultimatum affected up to 700,000 Christians who were born in South Sudan before it became independent last year. In Eritrea, it is reported that 2,000-3,000 Christians are in detention, and that many have been tortured.
But the Middle East remains the most dangerous place for Christians to live, and attacks occur with frightening regularity. Egypt’s Copts and Iraq’s dwindling Christian community feel the pressure the most. Depending on the outcome of events in Syria, many wonder about the fate of that country’s vibrant Christian community. In Iran, members of so-called “house churches” (independent assemblies of Christians who meet in private homes because of their fear of oppression) are rounded up and imprisoned.
In 2012, the Open Doors group, devoted to focusing on the plight of Christians, designated Muslim-majority countries – including Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and even the Maldives – as some of the world’s worst offenders. In Pakistan, the country’s notorious blasphemy laws are frequently used against Christians to settle personal scores or extort financial gain. The shocking killing of Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s minority affairs minister, and the governor of Punjab province, Salmaan Taseer, ensured that anyone who speaks out on this topic can expect swift retribution.