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During the year 2016, some 90,000 Christians were killed for their faith around the world, according to a new study from the Turin-based Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR).
The director of CESNUR and leader of the study, Dr. Massimo Introvigne, told Breitbart News that Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world, and the numbers of those affected are staggering.
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Christians are targeted primarily for two reasons, Introvigne said, “first because their proclamation of peace disturbs more belligerent groups; and second, because their social teachings on life, family and poverty are opposed by powerful forces.”
While in the past century, atheistic communist regimes were the greatest persecutors of Christians, Introvigne added, the geopolitical landscape has changed considerably since then and the actors have changed as well.
While “Communism’s last salvoes” are still responsible for some ill-treatment of Christians, Introvigne told Breitbart, “Islamic ultra-fundamentalism” has taken its place as the number-one agent of persecution.
Introvigne’s findings coincide with those of other scholars and human rights groups. According to the 2016 “World Watch List,” for example, published by the Open Doors organization, nine out of the top ten countries where Christians suffer “extreme persecution” had populations that are at least 50 percent Muslim.
The 2016 report found that “Islamic extremism is by far the most significant persecution engine” of Christians in the world today and that “40 of the 50 countries on the World Watch List are affected by this kind of persecution.”
Introvigne told Breitbart that in Nigeria, “over the last 12 years, the most reliable estimates assess at more than 10,000 the Christians killed by the Islamic ultra-fundamentalist organization Nigeria’s Boko Haram.”
Yet while some groups, like Boko Haram, are private organizations, in a number of countries, “persecution of Christians is actually promoted by the governments,” Introvigne said.
“Several Muslim countries still have laws punishing apostasy—converting from Islam to another religion,” he noted. “Others have laws against blasphemy, and some tend to consider any criticism of Islam as blasphemy.”
While tens of thousands of Christians are killed for their faith, Introvigne said, they are just the tip of the iceberg and much persecution takes place on a daily basis that never makes news.
CESNUR’s annual study, which is slated for release next month, indicates that between 500 and 600 million Christians were in some way persecuted and prevented from freely practicing their faith.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter: Follow @tdwilliamsrome