Around 100,000 Christians are killed every year around the world because of their faith according to a top Vatican official.
Monsignor Silvano Maria Tomasi, a Catholic archbishop, cited the Middle East, Africa and Asia as the worst places for the deaths.
On Vatican radio, he was quoted on Tuesday saying the figures were ‘shocking’ and ‘incredible’.
An Iranian female Christian kisses a cross held in a ceremony at the Qara Kelisa in Chaldran, 510 miles northwest of the capital Tehran
Tomasi said Christians were also forced to leave their homes and see their churches destroyed in some parts of the world, and were often subjected to rapes, kidnappings and discrimination.
He made particular reference to the kidnapping of two Orthodox bishops near Aleppo in Syria last month.
Religious freedom is beset by ‘sectarianism, intolerance, terrorism and exclusionary laws,’ he said, while also pointing to exceptions like Bangladesh where he said rights are protected.
Another senior Vatican figure, the secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Mario Toso, said recently that discrimination against Christians ‘should be countered in the same way as anti-Semitism and Islamophobia’.
It comes as Iran’s largest Persian-language Pentecostal church was closed down just one week after one of its pastors was arrested and taken away during a service.
Central Assemblies of God church in Tehran is the latest example of the Islamic Republic cracking down on Christian faith.
Authorities grabbed Pastor Robert Asserian on May 21 while mass was underway.
They have still not revealed to worshippers where he is being held.
According to BosNewsLife, a news agency that specialises in the plight of Christians in Middle Eastern nations, Christians fear their faith is being stamped out in Iran.
It is believed there are about 100,000 Christians in Iran in a national of 75 million.
Other pastors known to be detained in Iranian prisons include Behnam Irani, who is held in Ghezel Hesar Prison in Karaj City, one of the toughest jails in the country, some 12 miles west of the nation’s capital, Tehran.
George Wood, Assemblies of God in the U.S., said: ‘These incidents appear to be an attempt to stop worship services from being conducted in Farsi, the language of the majority of Iranians.’
Read more: Daily Mail