Christian advocacy charity Release International has warned the so-called ‘flight of faith’ that happened in 2015 is set to continue into 2016, as persecution of Christians continues.
In its annual review of persecution trends, Release said 2016 could bring continued displacement in the predominantly Muslim Middle East, as Christian refugees are driven out of their communities and countries because of their religious beliefs.
Paul Robinson, the chief executive of Release International, said: ‘This flight of faith is a growing trend around the world. Christians are being forced out of the Middle East, the very birthplace of the faith’.
The report highlighted the increase in Islamic terrorists targeting Christians in Syria, Iraq and Nigeria.
In East Africa, according to the report, Islamist terrorists are set to continue their campaigns of violence in Kenya and Tanzania, attacking Christian leaders and churches.
According to latest figures, the Syrian civil war has had a devastating effect already on the church, as more than half the nation’s professing Christian pre-war population have fled. Large numbers of Iraqi Christians have also been driven out.
In Nigeria, Islamist terrorists including Boko Haram have claimed more than 14,000 lives since 2013, driving some 60,000 from their homes and continuing to abduct girls and women.
Countries which practise Islamic law (Sharia) are often hostile to Christianity. The report said: ‘In Pakistan, Christians and others can easily fall foul of the country’s notorious blasphemy laws. Release has long been calling for the repeal of the blasphemy laws’.
Central Asian governments have been cracking down on Christian activity, while others, such as Burma, Nepal and India have been making it difficult for evangelism.
The closed country of North Korea (see ET, January 2016 newsletter, PowerPoint presentation pdf) encourages leader-worship of Kim Jong Un. Christians are jailed as political prisoners, while communist, atheist China still treats biblical Christianity with suspicion and hostility.
Mr Robinson added, ‘Let us pray for persecuted Christians and stand up for justice for the many who have been persecuted simply for their faith’.