Nearly 90,000 Christians were killed for their faith in 2016, equivalent to one every six minutes, according to a new study by the Italy-based Center for Studies on New Religions (Censur). The annual study, which is set for release next month, also indicated that between 500 and 600 million Christians were prevented from freely practicing their faith.

The number has actually declined from 105,000 in 2015, but it still makes Christians the most persecuted religious group in the world, Massimo Introvigne, director of Censur, told Vatican Radio when announcing the findings on Monday.

“Without wishing to forget or belittle the suffering of members of other religions, Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world,” Introvigne said.

Around 70 percent of the killings occurred in tribal conflicts in Africa, with the high number attributed to Christians refusing to take up weapons for reasons of conscience, Introvigne said. A separate report earlier this year found that a large number of Christian deaths were occurring in northern Nigeria, where the terrorist group Boko Haram operates.

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