The persecution of Christians worldwide has been ignored for far too long by successive Irish governments.

That is according to a report by the Irish charity Church in Chains, which has published a Global Guide on the issue.

It claims that over 200 million Christians are at constant risk of persecution of one form or another because of their religious beliefs.

The word Christian in the guide includes all who identify as Christian, and all churches are included in the
Christian statistics for each country.

It says some persecution comes from authoritarian regimes such as China, North Korea and Eritrea that are keen to keep Christianity (and other religions) under strict control.

In other countries, such as Nigeria and India, persecution comes from violent fundamentalists of other
religions intent on forcing Christians out.

About half of the countries in the Guide have laws or policies in place to protect the majority religion (whether it be Buddhism, Hinduism or Islam) and prevent conversion to Christianity.

The report is the fourth edition of the Global Guide which divides the level of persecution in countries as - severe, significant and limited.

'Severe' is defined as where many or all Christians face persecution including imprisonment, torture, murder or violent mob attacks.

'Significant' relates to some, but not all, Christians facing arrest, attack or serious restrictions.

'Limited' defines some churches or individual Christians facing restrictions or discrimination.

Four countries are listed that were not in the previous edition - Belarus, Burkina Faso, Mozambique (Northeast) and Ukraine (Donbas).

Four countries listed in the third edition have been omitted - Bahrain, Philippines (Mindanao), Rwanda and United Arab Emirates) – in recognition that religious freedom in these countries has improved.

Church in Chains says the new guide documents how persecution of Christians is increasing across the globe.

The Charity's Director, David Turner has said that Irish Governments have repeatedly stated a commitment to prioritising freedom of religion or belief in foreign policy.

However, he has expressed regret that they have not followed this through with that "by raising individual cases of persecution of Christians directly with the governments that are actively persecuting Christians or facilitating the persecution of Christians".

The new guide demonstrates the "overwhelming need for action to give credence to their words", according to the charity.