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An organization that long has fought persecution of Christians in regions dominated by Islam, Hinduism or other influences now is expressing alarm about attacks in Western countries, where Christians for generations have been the majority.

And the group, Barnabas Fund, is blaming, at least partly, government or government-backed organizations.

A new report says the group is “increasingly concerned about the growing level of harassment of Christians in the West.”

Persecution comes in a wide range of forms around the globe, the report explains. There is informal discrimination in which Christians are simply denied jobs and official discrimination in which universities in some countries require Christian applicants to get higher marks than those of the majority religion.

Then there is vigilante persecution in which Christians face threats and violence and finally, official persecution in which unfair treatment is “sanctioned by the government or law.”

“Over the last few years we have watched the level of persecution being experienced by Christians around the world increasing,” the report said. “However, we have also witnessed with growing concern a significant increase in the level of discrimination and harassment experienced by Christians in the West. We have seen Christians lose their jobs because they are Christians, for example in 2006 Nadia Eweida an Egyptian born Christian was sent home by British Airways for wearing a small cross, something that is at least as important to Middle Eastern Christians as Muslims wearing a head covering.

Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert and Nina Shea have collaborated to create “Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians,” which confirms that groups like Pew Research, Newsweek and The Economist also identify Christians as “the world’s most widely persecuted religious group.”

“An increasing number of public sector jobs now effectively require employees to at least notionally assent to a secular humanist worldview, including, for example acceptance that homosexual relationships are morally ‘good’ in same way that heterosexual marriage is. This includes marriage registrars, marriage guidance counselors, magistrates on child adoption panels – and in practice Christians are also being increasingly excluded from being adopted as election candidates by most of the main political parties unless they keep quiet about their Christian beliefs and so give the impression of assent to these newly required beliefs.”

The report called it a complete reversal of the history of religious freedoms in the West, where the U.K. established freedom of religion in the 1600s, Canada in 1774, the U.S. in 1787 and Australia in 1900.

“This is also being enforced on businesses – with companies that identify themselves as Christian being specifically targeted. For example, Ashers Bakery in Northern Ireland was ‘tested’ by being asked to bake a cake promoting gay marriage and they are by no means the only such overtly Christian business, or even bakery to be targeted in this way,” the report said.

“To make matters worse, those seeking to force Christians to act against their beliefs are often financially backed by governmental organizations in the name of enforcing what is euphemistically called ‘equality,’ but in practice often appears to mean ‘homogenization’ with everyone being required to assent to the new belief system,” the report said.

The danger, the report said, is that government sponsorship of those “seeking to enforce their own beliefs and values on Christians” sends a message of disparagement.

“That is a very dangerous trend. It is not without some significance that it was after the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland took up the case against Ashers’ Bakery, that the bakery’s Christian owners began receiving a significant amount of hate mail, food thrown at their shops, attempts to smash their windows and a threat to burn down the bakery while they were inside it.”

In the case of a teen apprentice in a shop fitters firm in York, the persecution was physical.

“The court … heard how he was sprayed with an aerosol directed at this head which was then lit,” the report said. “He was victimized because of his Christian faith by his workmates.”

It noted that in the United States, President Obama refers to “freedom of worship” rather than the constitutional term “freedom of religion,” suggesting religious rights are confined to the inside of church buildings.

“In a number of Western countries, political leaders and governmental bodies are sending out clear signals that biblical Christian beliefs on issues such as marriage must be held privately – and those wanting to hold public office must at least notionally assent to a different set of beliefs – and if necessary act against their deepest Christian beliefs,” the report explained.

That attitude, the organization said, contributes to the “seedbed in which violence against Christians can take root.”

WND recently reported a poll found the number of Americans who think Christians are facing growing intolerance in the United States rose to 63 percent, up 13 points from just a few years ago.

And at the beginning of the year, WND reported the Open Doors World Watch List found that there were 100 million Christians persecuted in 2015.

The group has studied the issue since 1955, when it first began smuggling Bibles into communist Europe. The group said 7,000 Christian were killed for their faith in 2015 compared to 4,000 the previous year. That number does not include executions in Iraq and Syria, where millions of Christians have been displaced by civil war and ISIS.

Data for North Korea was also missing, although 70,000 Christians are estimated to exist inside the police state’s gulags.

Only a year ago, prominent Christian leader Franklin Graham predicted there would be rising persecution of Christians in the U.S. in the aftermath of a Supreme Court decision to create “same-sex marriage.”

Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert and Nina Shea have collaborated to create “Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians,” which confirms that groups like Pew Research, Newsweek and The Economist also identify Christians as “the world’s most widely persecuted religious group.”

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