The head of a religious research group says about 90,000 Christians were killed because of their faith in 2016.
In a recent interview with Vatican Radio, Massimo Introvigne, the founder of the Center for Studies on New Religions, cited a new report, set to be released later this month by the Center for the Study of Global Christianity.
The Center for Studies on New Religions is an Italian organization that studies new religious movements. Introvigne discussed global persecution of Christians and said in the interview that about 500 to 600 million Christians around the world can't freely practice their faith.
We can't independently verify the statistics until the report comes out, but there were several regions of the world where Christians faced persecution in the past year.
Conflicts in North African countries like Nigeria were a significant source of Christian persecution in 2016. Open Doors USA, a nonprofit organization that helps persecuted Christians, recorded a 62 percent increase in violent killings of Christians at the hands of Islamist militant groups like Boko Haram.
According to Introvigne, about 70 percent of the 90,000 Christian deaths in 2016 came from tribal conflicts in Africa. Introvigne attributes the high number of deaths to Christians who are unwilling to take up arms and defend themselves.
Christians also faced deadly persecution in destabilized Middle Eastern countries like Iraq and Syria, where ISIS and other militants targeted them and other religious minorities.
Intolerant governments also pose a lethal threat to Christians. The North Korean regime in particular has been accused of committing atrocities to stamp out religious belief.