By Aaron Earls
There has never been a more dangerous time in modern history to be a Christian, according to the 2016 World Watch List from Open Doors, a persecution watchdog group.
In releasing the new report detailing the most hostile nations around the world, Open Doors says global Christian persecution has risen to “a level akin to ethnic cleansing.”
The survey, independently audited by the International Institute of Religious Freedom, found more than 7,100 Christians were killed in 2015 for “faith-related reasons,” up 3,000 from the previous year. In addition, 2,400 churches were destroyed or damaged.
“The level of exclusion, discrimination, and violence against Christians is unprecedented, spreading, and intensifying,” Open Doors president David Curry said at a news conference announcing the latest report.
North Korea remains the worst offender. Open Doors estimates the country of 24.5 million has around 300,000 Christians with at least 50,000 of those imprisoned in labor camps.
The rest of the top 10 (and most of the 50 nations listed) are predominately Muslim countries with antagonistic governments or national leadership incapable of stopping localized violence. With a score of 100 being the worst possible, here are the top 10 and their 2016 score.
- North Korea: 92
- Iraq: 90
- Eritrea: 89
- Afghanistan: 88
- Syria: 87
- Pakistan: 87
- Somalia: 87
- Sudan: 84
- Iran: 83
- Libya: 79
David Saperstein, the United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, said, “In far too many countries far too many people face daunting, alarming restrictions,” but most “refuse to surrender their faith or their God.”
As the report focuses on numbers and statistics, Saperstein brought up the human toll. “Every one of the numbers in this report is a human being,” he said.
Curry believes persecution of Christians often serves the role of coalmine canaries, alerting the world to impending problems in a country. “The persecution of Christians is a lead indicator of when countries are beginning to tip into chaos,” he said.
The report states the most rapidly growing and most concentrated areas of persecution are in the Middle East, Africa, and Central Asia.
Mexico and Columbia were the only nations in the Americas to make the list. Bahrain, an island country in the Persian Gulf, and Niger, a central African nation, were new to the list in 2016.
View the entire list at Open Doors’ website.
AARON EARLS (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor of Facts & Trends.