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The last to leave was a disabled woman who could not travel.

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Throughout much of her pregnancy, she had been in prison in Khartoum, capital of the Republic Sudan, living with the dread expectation that she would be hanged once her baby was born.

Her crime was that she had married a Christian and been accused by the authorities of apostasy, renouncing her faith, even though she maintained she had never been a Muslim in the first place.

All this seems counter-intuitive here in the West where the history of Christianity has been one of cultural dominance and control ever since the Emperor Constantine converted and made the Roman Empire Christian in the 4th century AD.

Yet the plain fact is that Christians are languishing in jail for blasphemy in Pakistan, and churches are burned and worshippers regularly slaughtered in Nigeria and Egypt, which has recently seen its worst anti-Christian violence in seven centuries.

Persecution is increasing in China; and in North Korea a quarter of the country's Christians live in forced labour camps after refusing to join the national cult of the state's founder, Kim Il-Sung.

Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the Maldives all feature in the 10 worst places to be a Christian.The Centre for the Study of Global Christianity in the United States estimates that 100,000 Christians now die every year, targeted because of their faith – that is 11 every hour.The Pew Research Center says that hostility to religion reached a new high in 2012, when Christians faced some form of discrimination in 139 countries, almost three-quarters of the world's nations.The region has been off-limits to archaeologists for many years, first because of political instability in the area and later due to the presence of Isis.The terrorist group has destroyed cultural artefacts and landmarks in Iraq and Syria, including the ancient city of Palmyra.A few voices have been raised in the West about all this.

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