Religious persecution is on the rise in Africa, forcing millions of Christians to flee their homes for overcrowded refugee camps and the risks of smuggling routes to Europe, according to a report.
The targeting of Christians has worsened over the past year, says Open Doors, a charity that monitors religiously motivated violence and discrimination, and produces an annual league table of the worst countries in which to be a Christian.
North Korea continued to top the list for overall persecution in 2015, but Nigeria came first for the number of Christians killed for their faith, recording more than half of the 7,000-plus killings across the globe.
“The headlines focus on the Middle East, but there were more recorded killings of Christians due to their faith in northern Nigeria in 2015 than in the rest of the world put together; 4,028 out of a worldwide total of 7,100 reported deaths,” the report said.
Out of 50 countries listed by Open Doors, the six where most Christians were killed for directly faith-related reasons were in sub-Saharan Africa: Nigeria, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and Cameroon.
“In numerical terms at least, though not in degree, the persecution of Christians in this region dwarfs what is happening in the Middle East,” the report said.
More than 2 million people, many of them Christians, have been forced to leave their homes in northern Nigeria, where the Islamist terror group Boko Haram is waging a campaign.
Open Doors also reported violence against Christian farmers by Hausa-Fulani tribesmen, conservatively estimating more than 1,500 religiously motivated killings.
“Both Boko Haram and Hausa-Fulani are carrying out religious cleansing, aiming to eradicate Christianity,” the charity said.
Eritrea, at number three on the list, has been described as the North Korea of Africa where totalitarian paranoia is driving hundreds of thousands of its citizens into the hands of people smugglers.