A group which monitors Christian persecution around the world has released a new report listing countries where attacks and restrictions on Christians are likely to increase. These include China, India and Nigeria.
The annual Persecution Trends Report by the U.K.-based group Release International, which also helps persecuted Christians, warns that Christians in China look set to face a harsh new year, noting that the communist country has been cracking down on Christmas celebrations in some districts, banning Santa Claus and Christmas hats to further tighten its squeeze on Christianity.
China, the report says, is "a key country of concern for 2018."
In February, the atheist state will gain greater control over churches and other places of worship by bringing into force tougher regulations on religious affairs, the report says. "Those new rules will mean unregistered house churches will face increasingly tough measures to control their activities."
According to the regulations, anyone who organizes unapproved religious activities will be fined for up to $45,200 and anyone who provides a venue for "illegal religious events" will be fined up to about $30,100. Moreover, the directive empowers lower-level authorities to take action on "unsanctioned religious activities."
Chinese Christians endured many hardships this year, among them being the detention of 13 worshipers who were attending Sunday service at a small house church that was raided by police; the torture of a pastor sentenced to 12 years in prison; and seven-year prison sentences being handed down to people who were in possession of Christian devotionals.