According to The Church on the Run, an Open Doors report published in June 2022, some 360 million Christians are currently facing persecution. Millions have been forcibly displaced from their homes because of their religious identity, either as a sole or contributory factor, or are otherwise homeless for various reasons, but severe persecution is the common theme.
Lela Gilbert, senior fellow for international religious freedom and coalitions coordinator at the Family Research Council, tells AFN that according to International Christian Concern's (ICC) "Persecutor of the Year" awards, there are three countries of special concern. First is Iran, where religious police are behind much of the persecution.
"It's primarily targeting house churches, most of which are made up of converts from Islam," Gilbert details. "The large older churches are not getting so much heat, but these converts are considered apostates by the religious regime."
Some house church leaders are in prison.
The second country of special concern is Nigeria, where tens of thousands of Christians have been murdered, and nothing has turned the tide for those who remain.
"The American government is turning more or less a blind eye," she laments. "These are massacres; terrible bloodshed is going on in Nigeria, and really, there's not much we can do but report it and pray at this point."
Third on the list is Afghanistan, where Christians reportedly are still being shot on sight. Gilbert also notes that 500-600 Christians, including Americans, still reside there. And though some intend to stay there, the rest need to be hidden and transported out as soon as possible.
While Iran, Nigeria, and Afghanistan are the top three offenders, the FRC spokeswoman asserts that they are hardly the only countries known for persecuting Christians. Still, Gilbert writes that most believers, though they live in poverty and constant uncertainty, continue to pray, praise, and openly worship.