Christians are in the crosshairs around the globe - facing more danger than ever before because of their faith.
That has been apparent to us for years as the ACLJ, along with our international affiliate organizations, work to protect the rights of Christians around the globe.
Now, comes a new study from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life that illustrates just how serious this problem really is.
The report, "Rising Restrictions on Religion," found restrictions on religious beliefs and practices rose between mid-2006 and mid-2009 in 23 of the world's 198 countries. But consider this: those 23 countries - where the violations climbed dramatically - represent nearly one-third of the world's population. That's more than 2.2 billion people affected.
The worst offenders, according to the report: China, Egypt, France, Nigeria, Russia, Thailand, Vietnam and the United Kingdom.
And the faith group most targeted: Christians. No surprise there.
The report, which is posted here, found that Christians were being harassed in more countries than any other faith group. Government or social harassment was reported against Christians in 130 countries.
We also know that anti-blasphemy laws, on the books in many Muslim nations, are used as weapons against Christians - to punish them because of their beliefs. The report takes special note of these troubling laws: "In addition, the study finds that restrictions on religion are particularly common in countries that prohibit blasphemy, apostasy or defamation of religion. While such laws are sometimes promoted as a way to protect religion, in practice they often serve to punish religious minorities whose beliefs are deemed unorthodox or heretical."
This report clearly confirms what we find every day in our work. We've just completed a fact-finding mission to Nigeria, where Christians have been under attack. That post is here.