In many parts of the world, Christians gathering to celebrate Christ’s resurrection do so with the knowledge that any day their faith could cost them their lives as it has for thousands of their brothers and sisters.
On Palm Sunday, twin bombings by jihadists at two Egyptian churches killed at least 45 worshippers and wounded more than 100 others in the latest of a long string of deadly attacks targeting Christians throughout the world.
The attacks were directed specifically to Christian in their houses of worship to avoid any ambiguity regarding the intent. As has been noted, this was “an attack on Christians simply because they are Christians.”
On Saturday, the Pakistan military said it has thwarted a “major terrorist attack” against Christians planned for Easter Sunday after a successful overnight raid just hours after Christians celebrated Good Friday services.
On Easter Sunday 2016, an Islamist militant took the lives of more than 70 people and injured over 320 more after detonating his suicide vest in a park in Lahore that was full of Christian families celebrating the feast. Among the victims are more than 30 small children, who at the time of the blast were playing sports and outdoor games in the Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park.
During the last calendar year, some 90,000 Christians were killed for their faith across the globe, making Christians by far the most persecuted group in the world, according to a study from the Turin-based Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR).
The director of CESNUR, Dr. Massimo Introvigne, told Breitbart News that whereas atheistic communist regimes were the greatest persecutors of Christians in the last century, “Islamic ultra-fundamentalism” has taken its place as the number-one agent of persecution.
The Center’s findings corroborate 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.
Their 2016 report revealed 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.”
During the year, nearly one-third of the Christians killed for their faith were executed at the hands of Islamic extremists such as the Islamic State or Boko Haram.
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.
Along with the enormous number of deaths, a great many more Christians—as many as 600 million—were prevented from practicing their faith in 2016.
On Easter 2015, Pope Francis reminded the world that there are more Christian martyrs in the present age than even in the first centuries, when the Roman Empire attempted to eliminate all followers of the nascent religion.
Calling for “tangible help in the defense and protection of our brothers and sisters who are persecuted, exiled, killed, and beheaded just for being Christians,” Francis told a crowd of tens of thousands in St. Peter’s Square that today’s martyrs “are more numerous than in the first centuries.”
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