Organization releases annual World Watch list
By Matt Hadro
WASHINGTON, D.C. (CNA)
Photo: Women light candles before attending Christmas Eve Mass at the Melkite Catholic Cathedral in Damascus, Syria. (CNS photo/Youssef Badawi, EPA)
Global persecution of Christians has risen for the fourth year in a row and is on a “rapid rise” in Asia, advocacy group Open Doors UK warns Wednesday in its annual report on Christian persecution.
“Religious nationalism is sweeping the globe,” according to figures in the Open Doors 2017 World Watch List, said Lisa Pearce, CEO of Open Doors UK & Ireland.
“Persecution levels have been rising rapidly across Asia and the Indian subcontinent, driven by extreme religious nationalism which is often tacitly condoned, and sometimes actively encouraged, by local and national governments.”
Open Doors released its annual World Watch List Jan. 11 on the state of global persecution of Christians. The list ranks the countries where the worst persecutions of Christians are taking place based on information gathered from field workers and “independent experts.”
Overall persecution of Christians has risen from last year, Open Doors UK noted. “Christians are being killed for their faith in more countries than before.”
The organization stated, “Christians living in these countries need the support of their family, the body of Christ, to help them stand firm in their faith.”
Pakistan had the most fatal attacks against Christians, “even more than Northern Nigeria,” the report noted. Mexico also saw a violent spike with the killings of 23 Christian leaders in 2016, including the abductions of several priests. The country has seen 15 priests killed since the election of current President Enrique Pena Nieto in 2012.
For the 16th consecutive year, Communist dictatorship North Korea was determined to be the “worst place on earth for Christians,” Open Doors UK said. There are 300,000 Christians amidst the population of 25.4 million.
Christians there suffer from a totalitarian police state that closely monitors their actions and requires them to worship the ruling family, the report said. They must pray privately. Those discovered by the state to be Christian may end up in harsh labour camps where an estimated 50-75,000 Christians currently suffer.
“Every day was as if God was pouring out all 10 plagues on us simultaneously,” revealed one Christian women who was held captive in the camps but escaped. “That’s how hard it was. But God also comforted me and brought a secret fellowship into existence. Every Sunday we would gather in the toilets and pray.”
All top 10 countries with the worst persecution of Christians are in Asia and Africa. Somalia ranks second on the list, followed by Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, and Eritrea.
Somalia, ranked the second-worst country for persecution of Christians, “has persecution levels nearly as high as in North Korea,” Open Doors UK noted.
“Islam is Somalia's state religion and all Christians come from a Muslim background,” they explained, meaning that for converts to Christianity, if their conversion is discovered, it can mean persecution and even a “rushed beheading.”
“If a Christian is discovered in Somalia, they are unlikely to live to see another day,” Lisa Pearce stated. There are only hundreds of Christians in the country with a population of over 11 million.
At least 12 Christian converts were killed in Somalia in 2016, the report said. The country is ruled by a “tribal system” and is “basically lawless,” which means that entities like the militant group al-Shabaab can “persecute Christians with impunity.”
Open Doors was founded in 1955 by a Dutchman named Brother Andrew who smuggled Bibles into Communist Eastern Europe. Since then, the organization has grown to aid Christians in 50 countries by sending them Bibles and other needed materials, and speaking out for their well-being.