By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra, Christianity Today.
During the past two years, reports of terrorist attacks against Christians have steadily emerged from the Muslim world: 7 Egyptian Christians executed on a Benghazi beach, 165 Christian girls kidnapped from school by Boko Haram, and 21 Coptic Christians beheaded near the Mediterranean Sea, among other incidents.
The US State Department’s latest International Religious Freedom (IRF) report, released Wednesday, confirms that the biggest threat to minority Christian communities and other religious minorities worldwide is now the “new phenomenon” of non-state terrorism, particularly in the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Asia.
“[N]on-state actors, including rebel and terrorist organizations, … committed by far some of the most egregious human rights abuses and caused significant damage to the global status of respect for religious freedom,” according to the 2014 IRF report. This echoes the concerns of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which identified non-state actors as a “major challenge to freedom of religion or belief” in its 2015 report earlier this year.
“One of the more consequential facts of our era has been the … development of a sort of new phenomenon of non-state actors who, unlike the last century and the violence that we saw and persecution that we saw that emanated from states, are now the principal persecutors and preventers of religious tolerance and practice,” Secretary of State John Kerry said at a press conference. “Most prominent, and most harmful, obviously, has been the rise of international terrorist groups such as Daesh [ISIS, also known as ISIL], al-Qaida, al-Shabaab, Boko Haram. And all have been guilty of vicious acts of unprovoked violence.”