Monday, January 14, 2013

Where Christians are dying for their faith

Open Doors has published its annual World Watch List of the 50 countries where the persecution of Christians is most severe.

For the 11th successive year, North Korea tops the list as the most difficult place to be a Christian. In North Korea, Christians face arrest, detention, torture and public execution. One prison camp alone reportedly holds 6,000 Christians. Despite severe oppression, there is a growing underground church movement of an estimated 400,000 Christian believers.

Second is Saudi Arabia, where conversion from Islam to another religion is punishable by death. Evangelising Muslims and distributing non-Muslim materials are illegal. Public Christian worship is forbidden. Worshippers risk imprisonment, lashing, torture and deportation.

Third is Afghanistan, where there are no church buildings, even for expatriates, and gatherings in private houses require extreme caution. Both foreign and local Christians are subject to kidnapping, abduction, killing and having to flee the country.

Persecution of  Christians generally has increased during 2012, most dramatically in Africa. Violence in Mali increased after a coup in March. Christians are being killed by the Islamist organisation Boko Haram in Nigeria.

Islamism has increased in every country that experienced the Arab Spring, with massively increased pressure on Christians in the Middle East and North Africa. Tens of thousands of Christians have fled Syria in recent months.

Western governments need to be reminded of their responsibility to stand up against religious persecution in other countries. Christians should pray for persecuted believers - and seriously consider giving financial help to organisations providing aid for the persecuted.

Making up the 20 at the top of the list with North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan are Iraq, Somalia, Maldives, Mali, Iran, Yemen, Eritrea, Syria, Sudan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Uzbekistan, Libya, Laos, Turkmenistan and Qatar.

You can see the list, and details of how the placings are arrived at, here.