Syrian Orthodox Christian priests (illustration)
Syrian Orthodox Christian priests (illustration)Matanya Tausig/Flash 90

The Christian aid group Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) has published a new “Prayer Map” highlighting countries where Christians face violent persecution at the hands of Islamic extremists around the globe.

The organization says the primary purpose of the map is to "encourage people to pray for persecuted Christians." A quick review of the map serves to teach much regarding the state of Christian persecution throughout the world, especially by radical Islamists.

A printable version of the map can be seen here.

One side of the new map identifies countries where Christians are persecuted, tortured, imprisoned and even killed because of their faith. Nearly every Muslim country in the world is colored "restricted" on the map, meaning that government policy or practice "prevents Christians from obtaining Bibles or other Christian literature," or that "government-sanctioned circumstances or anti-Christian laws that lead to believers being harassed, imprisoned, killed or deprived of basic needs."

The reverse side of the map is more specific, highlighting nations where Christians face violent persecution by Islamic extremists.

Notably, the map does not mention Israel at all, but instead lists "Palestine" as if it were a recognized country. The map states that the area is comprised of two separate parts: the "West Bank" and Gaza, and that while the Palestinian Authority (PA) controls the main towns and scattered enclaves in the former, "Jewish settler enclaves and Israeli military authorities control the rest."

The map further states that "the dwindling Christian minority in both the West Bank and Gaza" is being squeezed out by "pressure from all sides, particularly from Islamists." It is not clear what sides other than the "Islamists" are doing said squeezing. "Most Arab Muslims view Arab Christians not as fellow Arabs, but as infidels and western collaborators," the map notes.

The Christian persecution watchdog group Open Doors, releasing its annual list of countries where Christians face the greatest persecution, has found that 2015 was the worst year in modern history in this regard. Before that, 2014 had held that distinction. More than 7,000 Christians were killed for their faith between Nov. 1, 2014, and Oct. 31, 2015.

Though North Korea was listed as No. 1 on the World Watch List, making it the greatest persecutor of Christians in the world for the 14th consecutive year, the other countries in the top 20 are mostly Muslim. Iraq is #2, followed by Eritrea, Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Iran, Libya and Yemen. In Nigeria (#12), the Boko Haram terrorist group murdered more Christians in 2015 than any other terrorist group. The "Palestinian Territories" are listed at #24 – persecuting Christians at a higher rate than countries such as Tunisia, China, Algeria, Kuwait, and Colombia.