"So many Christians in the world are suffering. Am I indifferent to that, or does it affect me like it's a member of the family? Does it touch my heart, or doesn't it really affect me, [to know that] so many brothers and sisters in the family are giving their lives for Jesus Christ?" - Pope Francis, September, 23, 2013.
Despite the fact that Christians make up roughly a third of the world's population, there are still large pockets of the planet where they are targeted and hunted down simply because of their faith in Jesus Christ.
Below are just six among hundreds of stories of persecution from the bloody, painful and tumultuous year of 2013 for Christians around the globe.
1. Nigeria's Boko Haram and Fulani Herdsmen Slaughter 1,200 Nigerian Christians
"Statistically, we are looking at approximately 60 percent of the world's Christians that were killed for their faith last year was in Northern Nigeria," Ann Buwalda, executive director of the Jubilee Campaign.
Recently named on the U.S. terrorist's list, Boko Haram has waged war against Nigerian Christians living in the northern part of the country in hopes of driving them to the South, where the majority of Christians already reside. (The country's Muslims live predominantly in the North.) To achieve its ends, the group, along with Fulani Herdsmen, have carried out bombings, mass shootings and kidnappings, leaving Christians fearful for their lives. The Nigerian government had attempted to grant the group amnesty in April, in hopes of them ceasing their fight, but the group rejected the offer. Still, in one hopeful sign, some church leaders suggested in November that the sophisticated guerilla operation now operates more as a "bandit gang."
2. Pakistan's Largest Attack on Christians Claims 82 Lives
"In every family, one or two people were killed, so how can we celebrate Christmas? There will be no happiness," Nasreen Anwar, 35, on the blast that killed her 14-year-old daughter in the blast and severely wounded her nine-year-old daughter, to the AFP.
Eighty-two people died after a double suicide bomb exploded immediately after a church service let out at All Saints Church in Peshawar on September 22. Within the tiny community, almost no family was untouched by the attack, which was timed and strategized for maximum carnage -- metal ball bearings were packed into the bombs.
The attack highlighted the peril of Pakistani Christians, who make up 1.6 percent of the country's 179 million population. Beyond bombings, Christians have also been victim to "blasphemy laws," or legislation that enables Muslims antagonistic to Christians to accuse and prosecute them -- at times on flimsy grounds -- of smearing their faith.
3. Islamists Torch, Destroy and Vandalize over 70 Christian Churches and Institutions
"For weeks, everyone could see these attacks coming, with Muslim Brotherhood members accusing Coptic Christians of a role in Mohammad Morsy's ouster, but the authorities did little or nothing to prevent them," Joe Stork, acting Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, remarked back in August after Islamists wrecked havoc on their Christian countrypeople.
The year 2013 means something noteworthy to every Egyptian. The military overthrew the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood-backed President Mohammed Morsi in June, but Christians will mark this year much more grimly. They will count the number of churches attacked (79 in August alone), a drive-by shooting at a Copt wedding in Cairo in October that killed four, and a several-month-long Islamist seize of Dalga, where the Christians that did not flee the takeover, found themselves essentially under house arrest and according to some reports, forced to pay a jizya or overseer tax to the Islamist government.
Ten percent of Egypt's population who been part of the country for hundreds of years despite years of persecution, the Christian community is resilient and yet rightfully concerned about where they will fit in in a post-Mubarak state.
4. Syria's Civil War and Rebels Increasingly Threaten and Target Christians
Despite the fact that some of Syria's Christian communities are so old that they still speak Aramaic -- the same language Christ is believed to have spoken -- a civil war that began in 2011 is threatening to displace the centuries' old community.
Once an uprising aimed at removing President Bashar Al-Assad from power, rebel groups have been increasingly dominated by Islamists who have targeted Christians specifically through kidnappings and other forms of persecution. At other times, Christians, who before the war made up 10 percent of the country's 22 million person population, have found themselves in the epicenter of the fighting. For instance, this fall in Maaloula, a tiny hillside ancient Christian village, fighting between rebels and the Syrian government army, caused the majority of the town's residents to flee. A war that has already created more two million refugees currently seems likely only to generate more in 2014, with more of those being the country's dwindling population of Christ followers.
5. Pastor Saeed Abedini's Imprisonment in Iran - One Among Many
The 33-year-old who hails from Idaho has been imprisoned since Sept. 2012, when members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard detained Saeed Abedini for his faith. He had been visiting Iran to meet with his family and move forward on opening an orphange.
Since his imprisonment, overwhelming concerns have been expressed about Abedini's health, after he was brutally interrogated after his initial detainment, and who has had difficulty receiving medical attention from prison staff and had to fight two months to receive outside professional help earlier this year. Despite international pressure from Secretary of State John Kerry and the White House, Iran has yet to budge and Abedini's fate remains in the hands of President Hassan Rouhani's government.
He is but one Christian out of scores believed to be imprisoned in Iran for their faith.
6. Continued Hardship in North Korea
While no single story regarding the plight of North Korean Christians landed prominantly in international news this year, that can likely be attributed to the regime's secrecy, rather than any break in suffering. The country made Christian persecution advocacy group Open Doors International's World Watch List for the 11th straight year for a reason: Christians can expect to "face arrest, detention, torture, even public execution."
North Korea also banishes Christians to labor camps, one which reportedly is home to 6,000 Christians. Despite the hardship both of being a Christ-follower and citizen in North Korea, Open Doors estimates that there are up to 400,000 Christians in a country of 25 million.
It Was Terrifying Being a Christian in 2013 - CP Lists Just a Handful of the Most Horrific Persecution Stories of the Year
By: Morgan Lee
Tuesday, 31 December 2013, 10:24 (IST)
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