Release International warns that Africa is set to be a hotbed of Islamic persecution in 2014, as Nigeria is warming up to be the persecution hotspot of this year.
In a special report, published in the Christian charity’s bi-monthly magazine, Release partners claimed that, although communism still posed a massive threat, especially in the secretive country of North Korea, Nigeria was set to experience an increase in Islamist militant action.
Colin King, UK director of Release International said, ‘2014 looks set to be a turbulent year for Christians, especially ahead of elections in Nigeria and Afghanistan’.
News reports of action carried out by Islamist terror group Boko Haram have increased significantly in recent years. Since its armed insurgency began in 2009, the group has killed thousands of civilians in its bid to establish an Islamic state in the north of Nigeria. Targets often include Christians as well as state institutions.
Mr King said, ‘Extreme Islam is on the rise, leading to greater persecution and an exodus of Christians from the Middle East. But the heartening news is that this reality is now being acknowledged publicly. It has been recognised in the UK parliament and by Prince Charles’.
While the threat of communism in Europe is subsiding, the worst persecutor of Christians continues to be North Korea, which hit the headlines recently for the sudden execution of its top military commander.
According to one partner there, any activity related to Christianity, whether bowing one’s head to pray, possessing a Bible or making contact with a missionary while abroad, is punished harshly.
The partner, who cannot be named for security reasons, said, ‘Sentences to concentration camps without trial are not unusual. These offences are never recorded as religious violations, but rather described as sedition, contact with foreign spies or conduct detrimental to the state’.
Mr King said Release was working to provide places of safety and support for North Korean refugees.
The report also said that, although the Soviet threat has diminished, the rise of radical Islam means ‘persecution is still everywhere’ in the central and eastern European states. It stated: ‘In Kazakhstan unregistered churches are not allowed to gather. In Kyrgyzstan new regulations strictly forbid any kind of missionary work.
‘In Tajikistan, Christian parents are not allowed to take their own children to church and in Turkmenistan many Christians have been arrested and beaten, interrogated and threatened. Copies of the Bible and New Testament have been confiscated’.
However, Release claimed that the most difficult situation for Christians in the region was in Uzbekistan, particularly its autonomous republic of Karakalpakstan, where any gathering is illegal.