Christians are facing an alarming rise in persecution warns church group, as it lists 50 most dangerous countries in the world to worship the religion
- Worst countries for violence against Christians were Nigeria and Pakistan
- North Korea tops list for 18th year despite freeing three American Christians
- India enters top 10 for first time over Modi’s ‘extremist militant Hindu agenda’
Christians are facing an alarming rise in persecution, a church group has warned, as it reveals the most dangerous countries in the world to worship the religion.
The international Open Doors organisation has updated its World Watch List of the 50 most dangerous countries to be a Christian.
It expressed concern at the increased strength of Islamic militant groups in countries like Somalia, Libya and Yemen and warned that as extremists were driven out of the Middle East almost 30 fundamentalist groups were relocating to sub-Sharan Africa.
Asif Ashraf Jalali (centre), head of Islamic political party Tehrik Labaik Ya RasoolAllah, condemns the release of Christian mother Asia Bibi after her acquittal on blasphemy charges
The 50 worst places to be Christian
Church group Open Doors has updated its World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer persecution.
1 North Korea
15 Saudi Arabia
21 Central African Republic
41 Russian Federation
45 United Arab Emirates
46 Sri Lanka
49 Palestinian Territories
But Syria, where ISIS is close to defeat after eight years of sectarian conflict that has impacted on the country’s ancient Christian community, dropped to 11 on the list. Neighbouring Iraq was at number 13.
The group said Nigeria and Pakistan saw the highest levels of violent persecution of Christian.
In Nigeria’s Middle Belt region, the report said, decades of climate change, desertification and population growth had fuelled conflict between nomadic Muslim Fulani cattle-herders and Christian farmers.
‘The murder of entire families in their homes has led many Christians to claim such attacks amount to a campaign of ethno-religious cleansing,’ Open Doors said.
Fears over Pakistan Christians were raised last year after 53-year-old mother Asia Bibi was banned from leaving the country while aquittal on blasphemy charges was reviewed.
Leaders of the Islamist Tehrik Labaik Ya RasoolAllah party demanded her hanging
In Myanmar, where the international focus is on the plight of Rohingya Muslims, Open Doors said that thousands of members of the mostly Christian Karen minority had been killed and 120,000 displaced.
Communist China rose 16 places to 27 on the list after the new Regulations for Religious Affairs came into force in February 2018.
Open Doors said the rules forbid children and youth from hearing sermons, forcing churches to put up signs banning under-18s from services and to close Sunday schools and nurseries.
North Korea tops the list for the 18th year running, where Open Doors claimed ‘any faith not placed in the Supreme Leader is a political crime.’
Christian Open Doors said Turkish Presidnet Recep Tayyip Erdogan had been ‘stirring up ultra-nationalistic sentiment for some time’ which had ’cause difficulties’ for Christians there
But the group welcomed the release by the ‘stiflingly authoritarian regime’ last year of three Korean-American Christians jailed for alleged ‘hostile acts’ amid the ongoing détente between Washington and Pyongyang.
Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi faced a travel ban while her aquittal on blasphemy charges was reviewed. Islamist parties demanded her execution
Two of them, Tony Kim and Kim Hak-Song, worked at the private Pyongyang University of Science and Technology which is funded by evangelical Christians in the US and China.
Seven of the top 10 countries on Open Doors’ list are majority Muslim countries, but the group also blamed nationalist politics for the persecution of Christians.
It accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of ‘stirring up ultra-nationalistic sentiment for some time,’ which has ’caused added difficulties for Christians in Turkey, especially Evangelicals.’
The World Watch List report also alleged an ‘extremist militant Hindu agenda’ by Indian President Narendra Modi, leader of the Hindu-first BJP party.
Open Doors said persecution of Indian Christians had ‘dramatically increased’ since Modi’s election in 2014, with the latest annual figures showing that 12,500 individulas and about 100 churches had been attacked, at least 200 people arrested ‘solely for their faith’ and at least 10 killed.
In his former position as chief minister of Gujarat state, Modi was accused of inciting the 2002 sectarian riots that left at least 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus dead.