A total of 2,983 Christians were killed worldwide in 2019, a report by Open Doors USA, has said.
This is contained in 2020 World Watch List recently released by the organisation in the U.S.
The document, which was presented at a press conference by Open Doors and attended by a representative of the U.S government, is based on data compiled by Open Doors operations in 60 countries.
Chief Executive Officer of Open Doors, David Curry, said at the conference that 260 million Christians experience “high levels of persecution” in the top 50 countries, showing an increase of six per cent from the report of the previous year.
The document said the 2, 983 Christians were killed for “faith related reasons,” adding that it showed that on the average, eight Christians are killed daily for their faith.
The document also said 3,711 Christians were detained without trial, arrested and imprisoned in 2019 as against 2,625 in 2018.
It also said 9,488 “churches or Christian buildings” were attacked during the year under review.
Curry said Nigeria remained the most violent country in the world where Christianity is practised as far as Open Doors data can track.
Media reports had quoted a rights group sometimes ago as saying that no fewer than 1,000 Christians in Nigeria were slaughtered by the Fulani herdsmen or Boko Haram militants in 2019 and over 6,000 were killed since 2015.
Curry said, “The difference this year is primarily because, in Nigeria, Boko Haram has changed tactics. They have gone from assassination and these kinds of things to roadside assaults on Christians and Kidnappings. So we have seen a jump in those kinds of things. But Boko Haram is also spreading its wings into Cameroon and into Chad but also into Burkina Faso.”
He said the Fulanis were perpetrating violence in farming communities in Nigeria, especially with a view to pushing Christians from those communities.
“I think it is wrong to look at (Fulani) as simply having territorial issues. They have an ideology that is historically being radicalised and they have an agenda to push Christians out of these communities,” he said.
“The cover story that somehow these are their ancient lands and so forth doesn’t justify unlawful behaviour against Christians who live there.”
Curry added, “The greatest tragedy of Nigeria’s ineffectual response to Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen is now parts of Cameroon and those other areas like Burkina Faso are greatly affected.”
The report said that no fewer than 194 Christians were arrested in Iran in 2019, adding that 114 of them were arrested just before Christmas. According to Curry, the Iranian authorities are determined to crush the growing Christian church movement.
“These are courageous people standing up against the power that exists there in that country. Iran has put its full faith into persecuting Christians,” Curry said.
He also explained that Sri Lanka rose to number 30 from number 48 because of the killing of over 250 and injuring of 500 others in three churches and three toilets.
He said, “They were dressed up in their Sunday best and taking kids (to church), but they didn’t come home. There are repercussions for things like that: 175 children, in that case, lost one or both parents.”
On its part, China, which ranked 23 on the list has the reputation of jailing Christians for worshipping in unregistered house churches.
Curry said a total of 5,596 churches have been closed down by the authorities of the country which uses surveillance camera in their churches.
Curry considers China the “greatest threat” to human rights.
He said, “Churches must be sacred places. If government was monitoring you, your every move, scoring your citizenship based on how often you went to church or didn’t go to church, how could you feel. That is what is happening in China,” he said.
Curry said, “We cannot let his stand. People are speaking out and we have an obligation to hear their cry.”