An international Christian organization is warning that the persecution of Christians worldwide is set to rise in 2019 -- and it's calling on the United States to do more to help.
Release International, a U.K.-based charity that helps supports persecuted Christians around the world and a partner organization of Voice of the Martyrs, warns that this year, particularly in China, India, and Nigeria, persecution against Christians is rising.
"These are countries that have long been on the list but we’re seeing an upwards curve, an alarming rise in persecution," Andrew Boyd, Release International spokesman, told Fox News.
"Release has been doing this work for 50 years," Boyd added. "I have no doubt that persecution is increasing and it is alarming and the contexts are different. You have militant Islam in Nigeria; China, which is communism; India, which is militant Hinduism; North Korea which is a weird blend of communism and Emporer worship. There is an increasing intolerance and it’s being played out in violence and we know it because of the reports that are coming from our partners on the ground."
In Nigeria, Fulani militants look set to continue devastating attacks against Christians in the north and central Nigeria. In the first six months of 2018 alone, they killed up to 6,000 and drove 50,000 from their homes.
“So if you take Nigeria, everybody knows about Boko Haran, but hugely unreported are Fulani militants, Muslim herdsman, being armed and they are attacking Christian villages in the north of the country and the tactics that they are using appear to be well coordinated and planned,” Boyd said, adding they are a "much, much more serious menace than Boko Haran."
In one particular example, "the Fulani would fire shots at night and lie in wait with machetes for them – these are men, women, and children – we’re dealing with lots of orphans, some of them who are heavily scarred…and the government seems to be doing very little."
China has seen a sharp increase in government opposition to religion, including Christianity, as the Chinese government has destroyed crosses, burned Bibles, closed churches, and is forcing believers to sign papers renouncing their faith in Beijing and several other provinces, demanding loyalty to the atheist Communist party in power.
"Tough new laws were brought in 2018, and we’ve seen high profile unregistered churches, house churches, are now being closed down," Boyd said. "Our partners are saying the Chinese government is now emboldened because of the lack of protests from the West."
One of their partners said the government is trying to "reduce Christianity to just a minor activity by unimportant older people."
In India, attacks against Christians are coming from Hindu nationalists that are on the rise. They see no place for Muslims or Christians in India and has only been emboldened since the government of India Prime Minister Narendra Modi took power in 2014, the group said.
There has been a rise in attacks on pastors and prayer meetings being broken up, as several states in the nation are passing anti-conversion laws. One pastor told Release he was thrown off a moving train for carrying Bibles in a rucksack. His attackers yelled, "These people are spoiling our religion!" and threw him on to the platform. They fractured his skull, shoulder bone, and ankle, and knocked out several teeth. The pastor continues to preach the gospel despite opposition from hard-liners, the group said.
Release International is providing Bibles in local languages to replace those the militants destroy and is giving vital legal aid and support to pastors who have been arrested.
Boyd said the United States could make a difference.
"The United States is so important. When the U.S. declares a country of particular concern the world sits up and takes notice," he said. "Your role really matters when it comes to religious persecution. You give out a message that the world is watching."
You can read the Release International's full review here.