WASHINGTON -- Some of the top fighters against persecution from all over the world came to Capitol Hill this week to sound an alarm at a House hearing about the global war against Christians.
Their bottom line: the 2.3 billion Christians alive today may form the world's largest religion, but they are also the most persecuted religious group.
"It is a huge problem and it's getting worse, not just in the Middle East, though it's getting worse there, but in China, in North Korea and elsewhere," Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., told CBN News.
"There's an explosion of persecution against Christians, including martyrdom, torture, and harassment of all kinds," he said.
Boston Globe Associate Editor John Allen traveled the world to gather the horrific facts for his book The Global War on Christians: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Anti-Christian Persecution.
Allen said a major problem for Christians is they make such a convenient target for those angry at the West.
Targets of Convenience
"Two-thirds of Christians in the world today live outside the West," Allen stated. "They live in Africa, in Asia, in the Middle East and other places where they are targets of convenience for anybody who is mad at the West, mad at Europe, mad at the United States."
"It's tough to take that out on the American consulate," he added. "It's very easy to take it out on the Christian church down the street."
Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, Vatican's U.N. nuncio and a witness to Christian persecution in Iraq, talked at the hearing about the plight of Christians in the Middle East and Persian Gulf region.
"Arab Christians, a small but significant community, find themselves the target of constant harassment for no reason other than their religious faith," he told lawmakers.
Rep. Smith pointed out that there used to be 1.4 million Christians in Iraq.But the harassment against them has been so intense, most have fled. There are only about 150,000 Christians there now.
Elliott Abrams, chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, offered a bit of a rebuke for lawmakers.
"Persecution of Christians is growing around the world and Congress needs to pay more attention to it," he said during the hearing. "It needs to be a higher priority issue in our relations with all these countries where this persecution takes place."
Not All Radical Islam's Fault
The impression many have is that radical Islam has perpetrated most of the persecution. But Allen pointed out that's not completely the case since so many groups take their ire out on Christians.
"It is a fact that radical Islam is the leading manufacturer of anti-Christian hatred," Allen said. "But it is equally a fact that radical Islam could fall off the planet tomorrow, and Christians would not be safe."
Take, for instance, India
Tehmina Arora fights for the legal rights of Christians in India as an attorney with the Alliance Defending Freedom. She said the rise of a violent brand of radical Hinduism in the world's second most populous nation has meant trouble for the much smaller Christian minority.
"We've seen increasing attacks against Christian workers, pastors, even sexual attacks against women," Arora told CBN News. "But concern also is over the impunity that is being enjoyed by the forces that are doing this."
Allen agreed with Arora.
"In India, they are victims of radical Hinduism," he said of the Christian minority there, and then gave two more examples: "In Myanmar and Sri Lanka, they're targeted by radical Buddhism."
In opening this congressional hearing, Rep. Smith pointed out Christians right now face violence, displacement, or discrimination in 110 nations of the world.