Persecutors of the Year Unveiled

Scott Morgan on July 7, 2022

International Christian Concern (ICC) recently released their annual report highlighting the Persecutors of the Year for 2022. “Dishonorees” are named in three categories: by country, entity, and individual.

“This report isn’t  a list of sad, small statistics happening somewhere in the world, far-removed from us. Many of these are mass human rights violations, with some some approaching genocide,” ICC President Jeff King said in an address to attendees at the International Religious Freedom (IRF) Summit in Washington, D.C. June 28-30. “Religious Freedom is an issue that affects people of all faiths and is a key driver in political freedom.”

King’s words are a clarion call: “This report is a wakeup call to churches in the West and a challenge to know the truth and act on it.”

Taliban-ruled Afghanistan was named as Persecutor of the Year. Chaos resulted from the withdrawal of U.S. forces and the subsequent collapse of the Afghan Republic. One point of concern is the small Afghan Christian Community composed of converts not indigenous believers.

At this time there is no adequate way to determine the number of Christians remaining in the country. Earlier this year the Taliban actually stated that no remaining Christians were living within the country. To make that claim within a year of seizing power is among the most chilling statements ever uttered by a government.

The entity named worst persecutor of 2022 are Fulani militants active in the Middle Belt of Nigeria. They appear to have all Christian farmers in their sights as potential targets. During the first six months of 2022 Open Doors USA documented the deaths of 896 Christians in Nigeria.

One notable concern within Nigeria is a controversial withdrawal of the Country of Particular Concern designation status by the U.S. State Department. During the release of the 2021 IRF report, Ambassador-at-Large for Religious Freedom Rashad Hussein specifically mentioned Christians as those who are currently under threat in Nigeria. Clearly, when this sort of announcement is made by a State Department official, the earlier Country of Particular Concern designation withdrawal on Nigeria will receive great scrutiny.

The top individual persecutor of Christians in the world was Ayatollah Ali Khameni, the spiritual leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Among the reasons to be concerned about Iran, converts are prevented from worshiping together and are forced underground to worship. When taken into custody, converts suffer from poor conditions and are often tortured by prison guards.

What the Ayatollah has done to Christians has not been limited to Iran. Proxies sponsored by Iran target Christians across the region. Recently the Philos Project released a report documenting efforts to drive Christians from Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen. The report states Iran does not get enough credit for its role in the decline in the number of Christians in the Middle East.

There are calls for accountability. In their report, Philos Project urges the State Department to levy sanctions against both the Iranian regime and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for their role in the coerced emigration. A call for the U.N. to appoint a Special Rapporteur over Iran’s role in the emigration of middle east Christians was also made by Philos Project.

Christians continue to remain in the line of fire in several parts of the world. The lack of accountability in some cases is chilling and frustrating at the same instance. However, western Christians cannot remain silent.

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