Western nations are failing to help the world's religious minorities as they grapple with a surge in violent attacks and intimidation, a new report has claimed.
Religious Freedom in the World 2018 warns that religious minorities are coming under increasing threat as a result of 'ultra-nationalism' by governments as well as groups of extremists.
The report by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) examined 196 nations over a two-year period up to June 2018.
It says that there has been a 'spike in hatred' against religious minorities in countries around the world and an 'especially serious decline' in religious freedom in India and China.
Other countries where religious freedom has deteriorated include Burma, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Turkey.
'Many of the others – including North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Eritrea – the situation was already so bad, it could scarcely get any worse,' it said.
Elsewhere, the report says governments have failed to respond to requests for assistance from religous minorities trying to return to northern Iraq after the ousting of the Islamic State.
Where Christians and Yazidis have been able to return, ACN said this was with the help of only a few foreign governments, leaving church organisations to step in and fill in the gap by repairing and rebuilding many of the destroyed homes.
'This work of rehabilitation has mainly been done by charities and church organisations,' it said.
'Had they not provided this assistance, the Christian community in the region could have vanished.
'Western governments, to whom appeals for urgent assistance were made, badly let down the communities concerned.
'Christians and Yazidis were recognised as victims of genocide – self-evidently deserving of help – and events have shown that there were eminently viable means of doing so.'
The report went on to say that the plight of religious minorities worldwide has been exacerbated by inaction and an attitude of 'indifference' on the part of Western countries.
'Most Western governments have failed to provide urgently needed assistance to minority faith groups, especially displaced communities wanting to return home,' the report read.
'There is a barrier of indifference, a cultural curtain, behind which the suffering of entire communities of religious minority groups goes largely unnoticed.
'Hence, with notable exceptions, religious illiteracy and apathy blinds the West from the surge in ultra-nationalist violence, which is being perpetrated against minority faith groups.
'This blinkered indifference does not extend to racial, cultural, or gender matters, only to religion. This report calls for the suffering of ignored religious minorities to be recognised and action taken to defend their rights.'