Open Doors USA recently released its report on the 50 countries where Christians face the most persecution. The World Watch List is published every year and ranks countries based on the level of persecution Christians experience in five spheres of Christian life: church, national, community, family, and private lives.
According to the report, 215 million individuals experience high levels of persecution, or 1 in 12 Christians worldwide.
It’s shocking that India – the country which taught the world the way of ‘non-violence’ – now sits alongside the likes of Iran on our World Watch List. —Henrietta Blyth, Open Doors UK and Ireland
North Korea tops this year’s list and has been ranked #1 since 2002. There are 300,000 reported Christians out of 25 million Koreans in the hermit country. Followers of Jesus endure many hardships for their faith. Christian families practice their faith in secrecy, avoiding the authorities and even their own neighbors from finding out about their belief. Torture, labor and prison camps, extreme hunger, and death await Christians who will be caught.
Following North Korea in the list of countries where Christians experience extreme persecution are Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, Pakistan, Eritrea, Libya, Iraq, Yemen, and Iran.
Open Doors noticed a rise in the level of persecution against Christians living in Asia, particularly in China and India, two of the most populous countries in the world.
China was #43 in last year’s World Watch List and is now #27 in 2019. The Chinese government’s crackdown on religion makes it harder for Christians to practice their faith, reports The Guardian. Authorities have shut down unofficial churches, demolished crosses on buildings, removed religious images from homes, and detained pastors and worshipers.
“In China, our figures indicate persecution is the worst it’s been in more than a decade – alarmingly, some church leaders are saying it’s the worst since the Cultural Revolution ended in 1976,” said Henrietta Blyth, the chief executive of Open Doors UK and Ireland.
What was surprising for the watchdog group was the jump in ranking of India from #28 in 2014 to #10 this year. “It’s shocking that India – the country which taught the world the way of ‘non-violence’ – now sits alongside the likes of Iran on our World Watch List,” added Blyth.
Analyzing the data from their field workers and experts, Open Doors found three factors for the surge of persecution against Christians in the world: the spread of radical Islam, the rise of religious nationalism, and the intense persecution in Central Asia.