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For those of us who live in comfortable homes in safe democracies, persecution of Christians and martyrdom may seem like a cruel historical fact, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Sunday the 13th of November marked the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church in 2016, a date that Christians across the globe observed with prayer and special services at a time when Christians are suffering increasing levels of persecution.
Speaking to the state of religious oppression and persecution of Christians, Dr. Vernon Brewer, president and founder of the Christian organization World Help, said, "At no other time in history have Christians been as persecuted as they are now.
Some estimate that more Christians have been martyred for their faith in the past century than in the previous 19 combined, and persecution in the Middle East, Africa and Asia seems to be on the rise."
Whether it is forced loyalty pledges, the destruction of churches, torture, systematic sexual violence or genocide, attacks on Christians have been increasing at an alarming rate.
The European Union's Special Envoy, Jan Figel, said in October that 75% of the world's population now lives without religious freedom.
The aid group Open Doors found that at least 7,000 Christians were killed for their faith between November 1st 2014 and October 31st 2015.
During the 2016 reporting period, this number jumped by almost 50% with more than 10,000 deaths. The number of churches attacked or destroyed during the 2016 period at 2,400 represents a doubling over the previous year.
These numbers are certainly alarming and the personal stories can be far worse. There is the widespread attacks on churches and Christians in Indonesia, the persecution of Christians in Iran and the horrors of Boko Haram against Christians in Nigeria.
Here are several countries that stand out now for their levels of persecution due to civil war, increasingly oppressive laws or widespread campaigns of anti-Christian violence.
The Syrian civil war and the rise of ISIS has been marked by campaigns of genocide and systematic rape directed against Christian communities in Syria and Iraq.
On February 3rd, 2016 the European Union voted to recognized by unanimous vote the genocide committed by ISIS against Christian communities in Syria and Iraq. Slavery has returned to the world by ISIS with Christian and Yazidi women and girls held in sexual bondage and sold as chattel while Christian men are executed outright.
The Islamic State has made it clear that to be a Christian in territory under their control is a death sentence, and numerous massacres in cold blood attest to their savagery.
Iraqi Refugees in Turkey
As many as 45,000 Christian refugees have fled into Turkey from the violence in Iraq as the Islamic State advanced. But the land they encountered has been a far cry from the respite they had hoped to enjoy.
Christians have been warned to hide their faith from their Turkish neighbors, by not wearing crosses for example, and charities and mosques in many cases have refused to aid families after learning that they are Christian.
Some are calling for the Christian refugees to be granted asylum in the United States, but the US State Department has been moving slowly over concerns with Islamic terrorist infiltrators.
God willing, these 45,000 Christian refugees will find more accepting lands than the increasingly hostile Islamic culture growing in Turkey.
Refugee camps in Europe
The flood of refugees into Europe has been of an unprecedented scale and many may think that the troubles of persecuted Christians would end as they cross the border into a country like Germany, but that is sadly not the case.
According to an investigation by Open Doors, a Christian advocacy group, just since February of this year nearly 800 Christians and Yazidi refugees have been attacked by Muslims at refugee camps within Germany.
Just under half of the survey respondents reported injuries within the German camps, often at the hands of Muslim guards.
Around 300 had received death threats against their families while other suffered insults, sexual assault and psychological abuse.
From being denied food rations out right or being pushed out of food lines by majority Muslim crowds, Christian refugees face a host of everyday examples of persecution. Often, they have said, reporting abuse or attacks only results in retaliation from Muslim guards or gangs.
Pakistan has banned 11 Christian TV stations in a step that is clearly a crackdown on religious expression. Hidden behind new licensing requirements that were never publicized, the stations have been shuttered without warning and it is unclear if they will be able to broadcast any time soon.
Stopping short of banning religious speech, the government has instead resorted to crafting regulations aimed at cutting off Christian broadcasts at their source.
Catholic TV founder Father Morris Jalal is quoted as saying: "As citizens, Christians have the right to practice their religion, but if they block you, it means not all citizens are equal."
He called on Western Christians to protest the bans, but without any stronger action, it is difficult to see what affect outsiders can have in a Pakistan that increasingly criminalizes non-Muslim beliefs through unequal applications of the law and violent Islamic gangs.
In a major move out of China, the central government has begun the harshest crackdown on Christianity since 1979 and it is planning on tightening its grip even more.
The Communist Party is demanding loyalty pledges from Christians and those who refuse will be jailed. All Christian churches are to come officially under government control.
The Catholic church is already officially registered and monitored and just this year Protestant churches across China were forced to remove all crosses because they were declared symbols of pernicious Western influence.
Often meeting in storefronts or homes rather than in officially recognized churches, Christianity exists both in the open and underground in China.
Estimates put the size of the Church in China at over 100 million but with only a quarter of those as members of officially registered churches.
The existence of God as an authority that isn't the Communist Party is seen as a threat to the status quo and we can expect increased crackdowns with imprisonment, censorship and torture targeting a Chinese Christian population that, if it continues to grow, could be the largest in the world by 2030.
Among the most severely persecuted Christians on the planet are those living in North Korea. Just as in China, the North Korean government sees Christians as threats to its absolute authority over its citizenry. After all, it is difficult to convince their people that Kim Jung Un is a god when they already known the truth of Jesus.
Between 300,000 and 500,000 Christians are estimated to live in North Korea but an incredible 50,000 of them are believed to be held in concentration camps where they perform slave labor in inhuman conditions.
Since 1953, as many as 200,000 Christians are believed to have been "disappeared" by the government. Those who are caught are subject not only to imprisonment but also torture and public execution.
It is not difficult to see why this period in history is considered by experts to be the most perilous for Christians around the world.
Persecution of Christians is at a level not seen before in history and authoritarian regimes are cracking down hard on Christian communities with a brutal hand. Churches everywhere are asked to pray for the deliverance of our brothers and sisters in Christ.