Iraq and Syria among top 7 nations with worst Christian persecution, report finds

Iraq and Syria are among the top seven countries with the worst records of Christian persecution, according to a report recently released by global persecution watchdog Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

(Reuters/Youssef Boudlal)A displaced family from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing the violence in the Iraqi town of Sinjar, mourns the death of a family member at the Iraqi-Syrian border crossing in Fishkhabour. August 13, 2014.

Christians are facing in increasing level of intolerance and oppression, especially in Afghanistan, northern Iraq, Nigeria, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, and Syria, ACN states in its 2016 "Religious Freedom in the World" report released on Thursday. The growing cases of intolerance were noted from June 2014 to June 2016 — the same period that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) rose, The Christian Post relays.

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"A virulent and extremist form of Islam emerged as the number one threat to religious freedom and was revealed as the primary cause of persecution in many of the worst cases," the report notes.

Based on ACN's report, Christians, Yazidis, and other groups who targeted in ISIS' genocide in Iraq and Syria experienced some of the most extreme acts of oppression. Some of the horrific actions of the militants are mass killings, rape, burning alive, extreme torture, crucifixion, throwing people off buildings, and other brutal forms of executions.

The report also studied 196 nations and found that there was "unmistakable evidence" of significant religious liberty violations in 28 of them. It also revealed that the religious freedom situation in 14 countries worsened. Only Bhutan, Egypt, and Qatar reflected signs of improvement in religious freedom conditions since ACN's last study in 2014.

Meanwhile, Maronite Bishop Gregory J. Mansour has called on American bishops to shine more light on the persecution of Christians in the Middle East by relaying the situation to their parishes and political leaders. The bishop said people consider America as a model in religious freedom, so they should be able to "export" it to other parts of the world, Crux reports.

Bishop Mansour also urged other bishops to help raise funds for humanitarian work in the Middle East. He explained that the U.S. church could be instrumental in rebuilding churches and restoring the lives of the persecuted Christians in the said region.

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