Published April 14, 2017
The recent Palm Sunday bombings at two Egyptian churches that killed 44 worshippers and wounded more than 100 others are the latest in a spate of deadly attacks targeting the world’s Christians.
Nearly 90,000 of the faithful were killed for their beliefs in violent and gruesome attacks last year, according to a report by the Center for Studies on New Religions, making Christians the most persecuted group in the world. While some were killed as part of state-sanctioned persecution, as in places like North Korea, nearly one-third of the Christians who died in 2016 were executed at the hands of Islamic extremists like ISIS.
The study also found that as many as 600 million Christians were prevented from practicing their faith in 2016.
“There are many places on Earth where being a Christian is the most dangerous thing you can be,” Robert Nicholson of the Philos Project told Fox News in January.
Some of the more violent attacks on Christians include: terror groups in Nigeria taking out the eyes of Christians before butchering them; a mob of Muslim worshippers in Uganda — mad over conversion efforts — entering a church and beating parishioners and raping at least a dozen women; and the numerous bombings of Coptic churches in Egypt.
The violence against Christians has been on the rise over the past two years, with assailants growing more ferocious with each attack.
In October 2016, more than 40 Christians were killed in the village of GodoGodo, Nigeria, by Muslim Fulani Herdsman. The mostly Christian town was burned to the ground and crops and grazing land was destroyed by the herdsmen, who shot and slashed dozens of the fleeing villagers. In addition, more than 300 were left severely injured.
In the war-torn Central African Republic, more than a dozen Christian refugees were hacked by machete-wielding militia fighters, also in October 2016. Fighters from the republic’s largely Muslim Sleeka militia attacked refugees living in the village of Kaga Bandoro. More than 50 people were injured and another 13 were killed before U.N. peacekeepers from a nearby camp stopped the bloodshed.
In February 2015, a video was released by the Islamic State showing the mass beheading of 21 Egyptian Copts in Libya.
The tape showed the victims — who were migrant workers kidnapped in the city of Sirte — kneeling in orange jumpsuits on a beach along the southern Mediterranean coast before they were beheaded.
“Oh people, recently you’ve seen us on the hills of Al-Sham [Greater Syria] and on Dabiq’s Plain, chopping off the heads that had been carrying the cross delusion for a long time, filled with spite against Islam and Muslims, and today we… are sending another message,” said one of their captives in English before the decapitations.
While the video, experts say, was doctored to make ISIS soldiers appear larger than life, no one holds out hope the victims, mostly poor fishermen who had gone to Libya for work, are alive. The following day, after the clip went viral, Egyptian warplanes launched airstrikes on a port city near Tripoli, where the video appeared to have been filmed.
The Coptic Christian community has become what is seemingly a top target for ISIS. Worshippers on Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and the northern part of the country have been under siege.
The Sinai Peninsula — where northeastern Egypt shares its borders with Gaza and Israel — has been the center of an ongoing conflict between Islamists and Egyptian forces for years, but in recent times the Islamic State and their local affiliates, known as the “Sinai Province,” have been attempting to drive the Coptic population out of the northern Mediterranean city of Al Arish.
While the Christian population of the city has had to flee from threats before, their plight has taken a dark turn in 2017. With a recent call from ISIS for the Copts on the peninsula to be killed, more than 100 families had to flee amid attacks – including the executions of their loved ones.
In the Palm Sunday attacks in Egypt, at least 44 people were killed and more than 100 were injured in the bombings — which ISIS claimed responsibility for.
The first blast occurred at St. George Church in the Nile Delta town of Tanta, where at least 27 people were killed and 78 others wounded, officials said.
Television footage showed the inside of the church, where a large number of people gathered around what appeared to be lifeless, bloody bodies covered with papers.
The second explosion – which Egypt’s Interior Ministry says was caused by a suicide bomber who tried to storm St. Mark’s Cathedral in the coastal city of Alexandria — left at least 17 dead, and 48 injured.
The attack came just after Pope Tawadros II — leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria — finished services. He reportedly was unhurt.
The blasts came at the start of Holy Week leading up to Easter, the most solemn time for Christians and just weeks before Pope Francis is due to visit Egypt. The attacks led Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to call for a three-month long state of emergency.
Christians continue to live in fear of practicing their faith, and there are no signs the slaughter soon will be coming to an end.
Perry Chiaramonte is a reporter for FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @perrych