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UNICEF/UNI179012/Romenzi
World News

Anti-persecution charity expects more refugees in 2016

by Hannah Tooley

Release International has said that Christian refugees are being driven out of their countries because of their religious beliefs.

Paul Robinson, it's chief executive, said: "This flight of faith is a growing trend around the world."

The charity's annual review of persecution trends found it will increase because of extremist groups such as IS and Boko Haram, and also under authoritarian governments which regard Christians as a threat and even enemies of the state.

Paul Robinson continued: "Under militant Islam Christians are being driven out from their countries and their communities.

"And authoritarian governments are driving Christians underground.

"Christians are being forced out of the Middle East - the very birthplace of the faith.

"Yet in the current refugee crisis, it is all too easy to overlook the religious dimension to the massive displacement taking place."

Release Internal is warning that Christians have been targeted in Syria, Iraq and Nigeria as well as Kenya and Tanzania, to name a few.

More half of Syria's 1.4 million Christians have fled the country.

In Nigeria, terrorists including Boko Haram have killed more than 14,000 people since 2013 and more than 60,000 people have been driven from their homes.

Pakistan is another area that Release International has raised concern over.

It claims that Christians regularly come into conflict with the country's blasphemy laws.

China is also on the list of countries that can be hostile towards believers. In 2015 it rounded up and detained some of its key human rights lawyers, and it has implemented a policy of demolishing churches and tearing down their crosses for several crosses now.

Paul Robinson added: "Many repressive governments try to silence those who speak out.

"Often it is Christians who are jailed for standing up for fundamental human and religious freedoms.

"2016 is likely to see the further arrest and imprisonment of Christians, under the mistaken view that those who speak up for justice are opposing those in authority.

"This belief that Christians are striving to undermine the state is a fundamental misconception, which appears to be gaining ground."

Release spokesperson Andrew Boyd explained more to Antony Bushfield on Premier's News Hour:

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