Nigeria is most violent country for Christians
A leading persecution charity has released a Top10 Violence List, revealing the countries in which Christians are most violently persecuted for their faith.
Based on a period between November 2012 and March 2014, researchers at Open Doors International have found Nigeria to be the worst place for extreme violence, with Syria and Egypt placing second and third.
Other countries that made the top 10 include Pakistan, India, Iraq and Kenya.
According to the World Watch List, a branch of Open Doors, 2,073 Nigerian Christians were killed in faith-related violence during the reporting period, out of a total of almost 5,500 across the globe. Researchers have noted, however, that the true figure may well be "significantly higher".
"The alarming increase of violence against Christians in Nigeria over the past months highlights the lack of religious freedom they have and the daily dangers they face from the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram and other violent Islamic organizations," Open Doors USA CEO Dr David Curry said in a statement.
"Going to school, attending church or identifying yourself as a Christian is a very brave decision in Nigeria. It is turning into a bloodbath. Christians in the West must stand in the gap with our prayers and support."
Members of Boko Haram, a Muslim extremist faction, are responsible for thousands of deaths in Nigeria since their initial uprising in 2009 and have recently been bought to international attention following the abduction of over 200 schoolgirls in Chibok, Borno state, who are yet to be rescued.
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Boko Haram has been labelled a "Foreign Terrorist Organisation" by the US Administration, and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby recently denounced it as "utterly merciless". UK Prime Minister David Cameron has also condemned the kidnapping as "an act of pure evil".
The group's leadership have declared intent to cleanse the country of Christians, eradicate Nigerian democracy and replace it with an Islamic state guided by Sharia law, though some Muslim communities believed to have betrayed Islam have also been targeted.
It is interesting to note that North Korea, officially recognised as the worst country for Christian persecution by the WWL for the past 12 years, does not feature in the new list on violence.
Jan Vermeer, Open Doors field worker for North Korea, explains that this is due to it being "impossible" to record accurate data in a country so closed to the outside world.
"It is a fact that thousands of Christians are starved, abused and tortured in North Korean's extensive prison system," he says.
"But due to an inability to derive sufficiently accurate figures about the reasons for killing Christians in this most secretive society, North Korea is excluded from the total number of killings."