England (MNN/CP) — An estimated 250 million Christians worldwide will face persecution in 2007, simply for following Jesus Christ, according to persecution watchdog Release International. The U.K.-based group finds that persecution is growing the fastest in the Muslim world. Release says most persecution takes place in Islam, Communism, Hinduism and Buddhism.
According to the Christian Post, Governments in even moderate Muslim countries often fail to safeguard the rights of their Christian minorities. Abuses suffered by Christians include kidnapping, forced conversion, imprisonment, church destruction, torture, rape and execution.
One of the worldâ€™s worst abusers of religious freedom is Saudi Arabia, ranked number two on Open Doors World Watch List of country allowing persecution. Saudi Arabia forbids all other religions. A Muslim found â€œguiltyâ€ of converting to Christianity could face the death sentence for apostasy. And anyone who leads a Muslim to Christ faces jail, expulsion or execution.
“Thereâ€™s a conspiracy of silence around Saudi,” says Release Internationalâ€™s CEO Andy Dipper, “probably because the West wants their oil and their money. But this is a government that hands out the death sentence for its own citizens who want nothing more than the freedom to choose their own faith. And while Saudi bans all Christian literature, it spends billions of dollars each year propagating Islam around the world.”
Dipper says, “A rising number of extremists interpret the call to jihad as a call to violence. They seem to regard it as their religious duty to force Christians and non-Muslims to convert to Islam. Those who refuse must be driven out or killed.”
There’s also a growing movement to impose Islamic Sharia law, which results in increased pressure on Christians. In Nigeria, militants have driven Christians from their homes to remove political opposition and pave the way for Sharia law.
“Despite the spectacular collapse of communism in Europe, persecution of Christians continues in China, Cuba, Laos and Vietnam, while the dubious accolade of the worldâ€™s worst persecutor of Christians goes to North Korea,” says Dipper.
You can also expect to see persecution against Christians in India, Nepal, China, Bhutan, Burma, and Sri Lanka.