According to a new Pew Research Center report, there are already more Christians in Africa than any other continent. By 2060, six of the top ten countries with the largest Christian populations will be in Africa, up from three in 2015.
But as Christianity grows in Africa, so does the persecution of Christians.
“Christians are increasingly seen as a threat to Muslim-dominated lands and governments,” said Dede Laugesen, the executive director of Save the Persecuted Christians, a U.S. charity.
“Mass territories of uninhabited, ungoverned regions provide easy cover for Islamic terror group activities. Combined with extreme poverty, joblessness and well-established routes for illegal arms dealing and the illicit slave trade, resource-rich African countries north of the equator provide fertile ground for Islamic State fighters fleeing the Middle East and looking for new territories to dominate,” he told Crux.
What follows is Laugesen’s full conversation with Crux.
Crux: Open Doors, which supports persecuted Christians, has said, “In Africa, Christians are in the flames of persecution-and on fire for Jesus.” Is this a fair assessment of what is happening to Christians in Africa?
Laugesen: Christians in Africa are quite literally frontline foot soldiers for faith in Christ. Christianity is growing in Africa faster than anywhere else on the planet. At the same time, persecution is increasing. Romans 5:20 poignantly describes what is happening in Africa today. “Where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more,” said Paul.
How widespread is the phenomenon of Christian persecution on the continent?
Aid to the Church in Need reports that 327 million Christians are persecuted worldwide – a number roughly equal to the current U.S. population – of which some 245 million, according to Open Doors USA, experience heavy persecution in the top 50 countries where it is most dangerous to be a Christian. Fourteen of these countries – 28 percent – are in Africa.
Which regions of Africa are mostly affected?
Terror groups promoting Sharia supremacy are growing, and increasingly coordinating activities across northern Africa and the Sahel. The Lake Chad region encompassing Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon and including Burkina Faso and Mali feature prominently in areas most affected by Islamic extremism.
The Islamic State is increasing activities and influence with already established African terrorists – providing arms and know-how in an aim to establish new territories for conquest and expansion.
Particularly, persecution by Muslim Fulani militants, Boko Haram and the Islamic State of West Africa with signs of coordination between these groups is cause for alarm. But, persecution of Christians in East Africa is also gaining traction where in Somalia, Uganda, Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, jihadist groups and anti-government rebels are growing lucrative networks for smuggling which funds their arms and operations.
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