More than 300 million Christians suffer high or extreme levels of persecution around the globe today, mostly in Muslim-majority nations, according to the new World Watch list by the organization Open Doors.
“The church is alive. The church is active. The church is growing. And that’s why the church is persecuted,” says Open Doors in its 2020 report. “The persecution of Christians is getting more severe than ever, affecting increasing numbers of believers around the world.”
In the top 50 countries on the World Watch List, a staggering 260 million Christians face high or extreme levels of persecution for their faith.
In the previous year, it was 245 million.
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Open Doors estimates another 50 million Christians face high levels of persecution in a further 23 countries, including Mexico, Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The worst offending country is the communist nation North Korea, followed by Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, Pakistan, Eritrea, Sudan, Yemen, Iran and India.
Syria, where Christians have been caught in the crossfire of a years-long civil war, is No. 11.
“Of the top 50, 45 countries have been designated ‘extreme’ or ‘very high,’ in terms of the levels of persecution Christians face,” says Open Doors. “That’s five more than last year.”
Nearly 3,000 Christians were murdered for their faith from Nov. 1, 2018, to Oct. 13, 2019.
To create the assessment, the organization’s World Watch Research Unit evaluates six categories for each nation: private life, family life, community life, national life, church life and violence.
In the private life category, Open Doors asks, how much freedom “does a Christian have to worship and own religious material? Is conversion to Christianity allowed? Is freedom of thought permitted?”
For community life: “Can Christians live without harassment and discrimination in their local communities? How does their faith affect their education or employment?”
The assessment asks whether or not a government allows Christians to express their faith, including gathering to worship.
“Are Christians attacked mentally or physically? Are they arrested, abducted, tortured, imprisoned or even killed? Do they face sexual harassment?”
Each of these categories is scored, and each of the 150 countries assessed is given a score from one to 100. A score of 81-100 equates to “extreme” persecution, 61-80 is “very high” and 41-60 is “high.”
The report says: “Attacks against churches have risen an astonishing 500 percent – 9,488 compared to 1,847 the previous year. These attacks include church closures, and the significant increase is largely due to the actions of authorities in China (23).
“Persecution keeps apace of modern developments, and governments are increasingly using surveillance. The explosion in digital technologies has been used to target Christians – particularly in China (23) and India (10), where facial-recognition technology and artificial intelligence have been used to identify and discriminate against believers,” the report says.
“In Syria (11) and Iraq (15), some Christians are beginning to return home and rebuild their communities … following the defeat of Islamic State militants. But the continued presence of Islamic extremist groups and ongoing political instability continue to threaten the church – as was recently demonstrated by the Turkish military incursion into north east Syria. In sub-Saharan Africa, radical Islamic groups are also taking advantage of instability in countries like Mali (29), Niger (50) and Burkina Faso (28).”
Nos. 12-45, with “very high” persecution, are, in order, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Maldives, Iraq, Egypt, Algeria, Uzbekistan, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Turkmenistan, China, Mauritania, Central African Republican, Morocco, Qatar, Burkina Faso, Mali, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Napal Jordan, Tunisia, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Brunei, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Malaysia, Colombia, Oman, Kuwait, Kenya and Bhutan.
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