Despite daily reports of jihadists killing off Christians throughout the Africa and the Middle East, North Korea remains the leader of an annual top 50 persecutors list of nations where it is most difficult for Christians to live out their faith.
The Christian charity Open Doors released its World Watch List this week to reveal that the militant east Asian nation that recently tested a reported hydrogen bomb is the number one persecutor of Christians for the 14th year in a row. The nonprofit group founded in 1955 to serve persecuted Christians around the world credited the “dictatorial paranoia” of North Korea’s government for its continued abuse of believers.
Closing in on North Korea, however, are the other 49 nations on the list, with many incited by the Islamic militancy targeting Christians in the name of jihad. According to Open Doors, “Islamic extremism” accounts for each of the other nine countries on the top 10 persecutors list, with 36 of the 50 nations on the top 50 list inflicting persecution on Christians as a result of Islamic aggression against believers.
Here’s a look at the top 20 from the list:
- North Korea- 92/100
- Iraq- 90/100
- Eritrea- 89/100
- Afghanistan- 88/100
- Syria- 87/100
- Pakistan- 87/100
- Somalia- 87/100
- Sudan- 84/100
- Iran- 83/100
- Libya- 79/100
- Yemen- 78/100
- Nigeria- 78/100
- Maldives- 76/100
- Saudi Arabia- 76/100
- Uzbekistan- 70/100
- Kenya- 68/100
- India- 68/100
- Ethiopia- 67/100
- Turkmenistan- 66/100
- Vietnam- 66/100
In fact, a large proportion of persecuting nations on the top 50 list have a common link — they are self-proclaimed nations belonging to the Islamic State terrorist group.
“Islamic State and its affiliates took their barbarity across borders like never before: into Libya, Kenya, and Egypt, culminating in random massacres in Paris on 13 November and in San Bernardino in the U.S. on 2 December 2015,” Open Doors Director of Strategic Trends Ron Boyd-MacMillan stated. “There is a feeling globally that no one is safe from the reach of these newer jihadists, who can recruit, convert and train any one through the internet.”
All Islamic violence in every nation is taken into account when compiling the lists every year, such as the jihadist California couple killing 14, the IS-inspired Paris attacks slaughtering 130, the 12 murdered in the Charlie Hebdo attack in France, the ongoing genocide of Christians at the hands of the jihadist Boko Haram terrorist group in Nigeria, and the 23 recently killed by al-Qaida in a Burkina Faso hotel.
Nations such as Nigeria and Libya now have an allegiance with IS and are regularly slaughtering those from the Christian minority to carry out jihad against “infidels.” IS is also exporting its wrath to other nations that previously were not identified as having any affiliation with the global terrorist organization.
In other nations, where IS has had a long foothold, the situation for Christians is becoming more dire.
“[The government in northern Iraq’s Kurdish region] is ordering land to be sold to Muslim families in several predominantly Christian areas and towns,” Open Doors divulged, noting how the area has formerly provided thousands of Christian refugees a safe harbor after escaping from Mosul and the Nineveh Plain — away from the onslaught of IS.
Adding to the persecution …
In an attempt to quell the spread of jihad from IS militants, governments have recently been monitoring religious activities in numerous nations more closely to weed out “extremism.” Now, Christians involved in church activities in central Asia are being watched more closely with an eye of suspicion, according to Open Doors International Chief Strategy Officer Ron Boyd-MacMillan, who calls 2015 “the year of fear” in the region.
This added surveillance has made it even more difficult for Christians to practice their faith.
Christian-life conditions are a factor used to compile World Watch List’s top 50 rankings, and they show that the degree of persecution is escalating. The higher the points, the worse situations they are in. To show the rise, number 50 on the World Watch List in 2013 received 35 points, while number 50 on the 2016 list received a score nearly 50 percent higher (53 points).
It is believed that the Arab Spring of 2012 is to blame for the increased Christian persecution in Africa, where 16 nations in the top 50 list are located. Surprising to many, the Middle East has less countries on the list (14) and nine more African nations would be added to the list if it included the top 65 nations.
According to Boyd-MacMillan, the tide of Islamic persecution from the Middle East to Africa is significant.
“Islamic extremism in the world today has two hubs, one in the Middle East, the other in sub-Saharan Africa,” the Open Doors leader stressed. “In numerical terms at least, though not in degree, the persecution of Christians in this region dwarfs what is happening in the Middle East.”
However, the lives of Christians continue to get more difficult for those living in countries from other regions around the world.
As the world’s largest democracy, India placed higher on the list than it ever has, ranking 17th among nations. This is credited by many as being due to the rise of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, under which religious minorities — mostly Christians and Muslima — have been hard-pressed by Hindu militants.
Even though this trend of persecution against Christians in India isn’t as severe as the Islamic violence against believers by IS in parts of Africa and the Middle East, the problem is escalating.
“Christian communities, across many denominations, report an increase of harassment and violence in the last year, including physical violence, arson, desecration of churches and Bibles, and disruption of religious services,” the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom noted in its 2015 annual report concerning persecution in India. “Reportedly, local police seldom provide protection, refuse to accept complaints, rarely investigate, and in a few cases encourage Christians to move or hide their religion.”