A new study has revealed that Christianity is continuing to spread across the globe despite believers facing extreme persecution for their faith. The 2023 ‘Persecutors of the Year’ report by anti-persecution charity International Christian Concern (ICC) details the various groups, organisations and locations posing a significant threat to Christians worldwide.
The advocacy group claims some 200-300 million believers currently experience persecution for their faith, including torture, imprisonment, and murder. China, Iran, and Nigeria are highlighted as key countries where the church appears to be expanding despite fierce opposition.
The ICC argues Nigeria is one of the most dangerous places to be Christian today. Believers are kidnapped, tortured, and killed every week by Boko Haram, Fulani militants and other Muslim extremist groups while churches and Christian institutions are destroyed and burned to the ground. “Boko Haram and Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) have killed tens of thousands of Christians and displaced millions to discard Western influence and impose strict Islamic Sharia law,” it reads. Yet, the approximately 100 million Christian population is steadily growing in the region.
The report claims that the Islamic Republic of Iran has “one of the fastest-growing churches in the world.” While 99% of the population is Muslim and Christians there are harshly penalised for practising their faith, ICC reports show a Christian population that has rapidly grown to around 500,000 – 800,000. Iranian Christians face persecution in the form of raids, arrests, fines, detention, torture, and death penalties for practising their faith.
China reportedly has between 70-100 million “underground Christians”. This is despite the communist country “aggressively suppressing free religious expression” which is seen as a threat to national security. House churches face persecution and harassment by the authorities, as they are often unregistered and not sanctioned by the government. Some are denied registration while others choose not to be state-run due to the heavy surveillance and restrictions that are applied. In highlighting the extent of suffering Christians encounter across the world, ICC says the “resilience of the body of Christ” is also revealed.