Last year saw a growing trend of religious persecution around the world – much of it at the hands of Islamists.
A spokeswoman for Open Doors USA says it's unfortunate, but persecution of individuals because of their Christian faith expanded in 2016. Emily Fuentes says as the trend continues, the number-one form of persecution originates with Islamic extremism.
"So this can be ISIS, Boko Haram in Nigeria, Al Shabab in Somalia, ISIS cell groups in Central Asia or Southeast Asia," she explains. "ISIS's groups or those affiliated with it have continued to grow over the past couple of years."
According to Open Doors, eight of the top nine countries where "extreme persecution" occurs are predominately Islam. The one exception remains North Korea – which has been #1 on the group's World Watch List for 14 consecutive years.
While Islamic extremism seems to be the main driver of persecution, Fuentes tells OneNewsNow her organization is seeing increased persecution by governments in central Asia as well as some persecution in the form of tribal antagonism in some of the African nations.
And while she expects persecution to trend upward in 2017, Fuentes adds that "there might be hope" in some places. "For example, there's Christians who are able to return to their cities like Mosul in Iraq after ISIS has been driven out of the area," she offers.
And there are those Christians in both Syria and Iraq who, despite the threat of targeted persecution, choose to remain because "they believe they have a vital role to play in rebuilding their shattered societies," says Open Doors.
At the same time, Fuentes says, Open Doors is holding its breath because cell groups could pop up again at any time.