The United States has been included for the first time among the top 12 nations where Christians are being persecuted for their faith.
In the 2016 “Hall of Shame” report released by the persecution watchdog organization International Christian Concern (ICC), the United States was listed among the countries where persecution against Christians are increasing.
The list is divided into three categories, The Christian Post reported. The countries that are deemed “worst of the worst” include Nigeria, Iraq and Syria due to the rise of Islamic extremism and terrorist attacks. North Korea is also included in the category for its ongoing crackdown against Christians.
The “core” countries, where Christians are often suppressed and targeted by blasphemy laws, include India, China, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. In India, ICC has documented over 272 attacks on Christians and churches in the first nine months of 2016. Saudi Arabia takes the “lead place” in the category for its part in funding radical Islamic movements globally.
The U.S., Russia and Mexico are listed as “new and noteworthy” nations where Christian persecution is on the rise.
“We felt it was very important this year that we highlight three countries where religious discrimination and persecution are deemed unusual but have reached a certain threshold of concern. These are Mexico, Russia, and sadly, the United States,” said ICC president Jeff King.
“While conditions in the US are in no way comparable to other countries on the list, a certain segment of the culture and the courts seem to be intent on driving faith out of the public square. There have been too many court cases with bad decisions to miss the clear trend line,” he added.
The report noted that American Christians are constantly being portrayed as “bigoted, racist, sexist and close-minded” in the media, particularly in disputes about traditional marriage. ICC pointed out that Christians have lost in anti-discrimination cases and have been ordered to pay fines for adhering to their beliefs.
Meanwhile, North Korea has remained on the top of the list for 14 straight years. ICC stated that there are around 40,000 to 70,000 Christians who are incarcerated in political prison camps.
Open Doors USA, another persecution watchdog group, has also named North Korea on its World Watch List as the worst country to live in as a Christian for 14 consecutive years.