VATICAN CITY (AFP) - A top Vatican official has said around 100,000 Christians are killed every year for reasons linked to their faith and pointed to the Middle East, Africa and Asia as the biggest problem areas.
Monsignor Silvano Maria Tomasi was quoted by Vatican radio on Tuesday as saying that the figures were "shocking" and "incredible".
Mr 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.
The Vatican official 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".