Mr. Speaker, the world’s largest religion continues to be the world’s most persecuted religion. Christians are assaulted, murdered, harassed, and their homes and churches increasingly are destroyed.

Recently, in Cairo, while Coptic Christian priest Father Rizkallah was collecting humanitarian aid, he was stabbed to death because he was a Christian. Now persecution has taken a new twist.

While Islamic extremism continues its genocide on Christians and other different sects of Islam, government-sponsored persecution is increasing worldwide. According to Open Doors, 9 of the top 10 countries where persecution exists have large Islam populations.

But North Korea, the number one offender, is an atheist nation. Ethnic nationalism is also a major driver of persecution.

Weak and/or totalitarian governments use Christians as scapegoats to keep a grip on power. Religious freedom is mentioned first in our First Amendment because it is the most important of all freedoms.

It is a God-given right for all people of all religions. Americans should lead the way in worldwide religious freedom and in denouncing religious persecution of Christians.

And that is just the way it is.

Mr. Speaker, I include in the RECORD the Open Doors USA Persecution of Christians Watch List. OPEN DOORS USA PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS WATCH LIST 2017

1. North Korea

2. Somalia

3. Afghanistan

4. Pakistan

5. Sudan

6. Syria

7. Iraq

8. Iran

9. Yemen

10. Eritrea