Report: 245 Million Christians Facing ‘Extreme’ Persecution Worldwide

A woman prays inside the Christian Glory church in Wuhan on September 23, 2018. - The landmark deal between China and the Vatican is a win for Beijing, giving official recognition to bishops appointed by the government despite a crackdown on religion, and potentially softening the ground for full diplomatic …
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WASHINGTON, DC — North Korea remains at the top of a list of 50 countries where at least 245 million Christians are facing “extreme persecution” this year, up 14 percent from 215 million at the beginning of 2018, the World Wide Watch List (WWL) released on Wednesday by Open Doors, a group that monitors the mistreatment of Christ followers, revealed.

At the Heritage Foundation, David Curry, the president and CEO of Open Doors, unveiled the 2019 WWL that ranks the top 50 “most dangerous” countries to follow Jesus, noting that women are especially targeted. 

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“The Open Doors World Watch List which you will see today is the most comprehensive grassroots study of what is happening around the world to restrict religious freedom, particularly for Christians,” he explained, adding “The data proves conclusively that Christian women are the most exploited group on the face of the earth.”

Curry highlighted several trends that are currently fueling the mistreatment of Christians, including the rise of authoritarianism and spread of radical Islam, particularly into sub-Saharan Africa. 

“Radical Islam is the driver behind eight of the top 10 on the World Watch List this year, four of which are from Africa,” the Open Doors chief proclaimed.

“Africa is now a major epicenter of violence against Christians,” he observed.

Last year, worldwide persecution resulted in 4,136 deaths, 1,266 attacks on worshipping centers, and the detention 2,625 individuals, the report revealed. The number of deaths increased by about 35 percent from 3,066 at the beginning of 2018.

“Christians were killed for faith-related reasons. On average, that’s 11 Christians killed every day for their faith,” Open Doors noted. 

Overall, one in 9 Christians across the world suffered from “high levels of persecution,” the organization added.

North Korea remained at the top of the list for the 18th year in a row. 

Curry noted: 

North Korea is number one on the World Watch List again and number one in the use of authoritarian tactics. It’s illegal to own a bible. The very suggestion that you’re a Christian can get you arrested with neighborhood watches again using old school communist tactics to control people. The use of authoritarian methods is a major trend on this year’s World Watch List and it’s a worrisome trend. We believe that churches must be sacred from authoritarian tactics.

This year, Open Doors listed 11 countries where Christians are experiencing “extreme persecution”: North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, Pakistan, Sudan, Eritrea, Yemen, Iran, India, and Syria. 

“For the first time since the start of the World Watch List, India has entered the top 10,” Open Doors pointed out. 

Open Doors’ report thus argues that India is a worse place to practice Christianity than China, where persecution against followers of Jesus has intensified under Communist Party leader Xi Jinping, who has vowed to “Sinicize” the country’s religions or make them more Chinese by instilling core communist values. 

“China jumped 16 spots, from 43 to 27,” the monitor group reported. 

Referring to both India and China, the Open Doors report said:

Each of these countries is home to more than a billion people, so these trends are distressing. Hindu nationalists in India continue to attack Christians with what seems like no consequences, and in China, the increased power of the government and the rule of Xi Jinping continue to make open worship difficult in some parts of the country.

Open Doors described the persecution of Christians in China as the worst it has been for more than a decade, with at least 50 million people facing some form of repression this year as the Xi administration tightens its grip over religious worship, the Guardian found.

The watchdog group, alluding to the estimated 65 million Christians in India, reported:  

Christians have been targeted by Hindu nationalist extremists more each year. Since the current ruling party took power in 2014, attacks have increased, and Hindu radicals believe they can attack Christians with no consequences. The view of the nationalists is that to be Indian is to be Hindu, so any other faith— including Christianity—is viewed as non-Indian. Additionally, in some regions of the country, converts to Christianity from Hinduism experience extreme persecution, discrimination and violence.

Hindu nationalist groups in India are reportedly affiliated with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Curry pointed out: 

The BJP party, which is the ruling party, Prime Minister Modi’s party has created a radical Hindu agenda within India that seeks to push out the Christian faith and anything other than the Hindu faith. They’re not hiding it. It’s not a secret. It’s their agenda and they have created an environment where people have impunity to attack churches — hundreds of churches have been attacked. 

He went on to urge “influential business people in America of Indian descent…to speak out about the discrimination against Christians in India.”

“We believe the international community is beginning to wake up to this discrimination within India … because this is a massive human rights violation and Indian needs to be held to account if they want to be part of the international business community,” Curry added. 

The Open Doors chief also urged the United States and other Western nations to defend and promote religious freedom. 

Curry told reporters:

People around the world are losing their freedom to choose their faith and we have to pay attention. Religious freedom is the key to what it means to be free. It is the key to what it means to be human and we believe at Open Doors that everyone should have the right to choose their own faith or if they want to have no faith at all. The United States and the Western world can lead in defending and promoting religious freedom.

Open Doors released its WWL assessment one day after the United States government marked 2019’s Religious Freedom Day on Tuesday.

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