Persecution against Christians is the worst it has ever been in history, a new report from a Catholic charity is claiming.
Looking at 13 countries where Christians face the worst abuses the study by Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), released on Thursday, found the outlook has worsened in all of them with the one exception being Saudi Arabia 'where the situation was already so bad it could scarcely get any worse', the report says.
Persecuted and Forgotten? warns Christians in many countries will not survive if violence against them continues and highlighted 'unspeakable atrocities' around the world including in North Korea where believers face 'enforced starvation, abortion, and reports of faithful being hung on crosses over a fire and others being crushed under a steamroller'.
It issues a scathing attack on Western governments as speakers lined up to criticise their response at an event in the House of Lords on Thursday night to launch the research.
Lord Alton of Liverpool, a cross-bench peer and religious freedom campaigner, said there was a need 'to separate propaganda from the reality' when hearing about money governments have donated as ministers said UK had promised £169.5 million of support to Iraq since 2014.
Father Salar Kajo, a priest on the Nineveh Plains in northern Iraq where many Christians used to live, said: 'We Christians see very little of this aid. In reality there is nothing.
'I am there, I am working there, I know there is nothing. It is the church that has rebuilt the houses. UNICEF come just to paint the walls,' he told the audience of MPs, officials and journalists.
The ACN report says: 'Governments in the West and the UN failed to offer Christians in countries such as Iraq and Syria the emergency help they needed as genocide got underway.'
John Pontifex, spokesman for the charity and editor of the report said: 'In terms of the numbers of people involved, the gravity of the crimes committed and their impact, it is clear that the persecution of Christians is today worse than at any time in history.
'Not only are Christians more persecuted than any other faith group, but ever-increasing numbers are experiencing the very worst forms of persecution.'
But as well as persecution in the Middle East at the hands of Islamic extremism, the report also outlines abuses in Nigeria where ISIS-affiliate Boko Haram has displaced nearly 2 million people.
Lord Alton said: 'It brings great shame on us that we take so little interest to what happens to our brothers and sisters in Nigeria.'
The report adds: 'The pervasive nature of persecution – and evidence implicating regimes with whom the West has close trading and strategic links – mean that it behoves our governments to use their influence to stand up for minorities, especially Christians.
'No longer should Christians be sacrificed on the altar of strategic expediency and economic advantage.'