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Report: North Korea, Nigeria among the worst countries for Christian persecution

Overall, 340 million Christians worldwide face persecution, according to Open Doors, an increase of 30 million from last year.

A cross atop a Catholic church in Tianjin, China, is seen silhouetted against the sun. (CNS photo/Kim Kyung-Hoon, Reuters)

CNA Staff, Jan 13, 2021 / 01:27 pm (CNA).- For the twentieth year in a row, North Korea tops the list of countries where Christians face oppression, according to a group that reports on global Christian persecution.

The advocacy group Open Doors released its annual World Watch List on Tuesday, documenting the countries where Christians face the most threats for their faith. North Korea again tops the list, and Nigeria has worsened to the point of entering the top 10 countries for persecution of Christians.

Overall, 340 million Christians worldwide face persecution, according to Open Doors, an increase of 30 million from last year.

The worst country, North Korea, lacks religious freedom, the report said. Here, “being discovered to be a Christian is a death sentence.”

Of the estimated 400,000 Christians in North Korea, around 50-75,000 of them are imprisoned in labor camps; for those Christians not killed by the state upon their discovery, they and their families face “horrendous” conditions in the labor camps, Open Doors said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the suffering of Christians in camps, the group says, as “North Koreans call it [the virus] the ‘ghost disease’ – because people are so malnourished already that they die very quickly.”

The World Watch List covers persecution during the time period from Nov. 1, 2019 through Oct. 31, 2020, and examines restriction on the practice of the Christian faith in a number of areas: private life, family life, community life, national life, church life, and violence.

Afghanistan and Somalia rank closely behind North Korea on the worst countries for Christians, according to Open Doors.

As in North Korea, Christians in Afghanistan and Somalia must keep their faith a secret as their lives are in danger if they convert from Islam to Christianity—and they even suffer at the hands of Muslim family members. In Somalia, there are only a few hundred Christians in a population of 16 million, Open Doors states.

The list of the 10 worst countries is similar to last year’s, with Sudan being removed and Nigeria added to this year’s list.

Violence in Nigeria against Christians has reached the level of genocide, according to some Christian leaders, as Christians are threatened by Fulani militants, the militant group Boko Haram, and the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP). An average of 10 Christians per day are killed in Nigeria, and attacks on villages and atrocities committed against women and children are often committed with impunity.

Iraq and Syria are both listed as having “extreme” levels of Christian persecution, and are numbers 11 and 12 on the list, respectively.

The pandemic has only worsened a tightening grip on Christian religious practice worldwide, Open Doors noted, and for the first time in the 29-year history of the report, all of the 50 worst countries for Christians had “very high” or “extreme” levels of persecution.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has turned a bad situation into an unbearable one,” David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors USA, stated. “This public health crisis created an opportunity to expand faith-based discrimination and violence in regions where religious persecution had already reached alarming rates.”

In addition to Nigeria’s rise to the top 10 list, China re-entered the top 20 worst countries for Christians for the first time in a decade, Open Doors noted, with government surveillance of Christians a problem–even documenting their phone messages.

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  1. The rights of Christians around the world, including right here in the United States, are under attack, and the liberals, liberal media and liberal theology allow it, ignore it, or sometimes even approve it.

    Where socialism, communism, and atheism are the foundations of government, godless tyranny abounds, leading to suffering, death, persecution, and silencing of any who believe in the one true God, especially if they are faithful Christians.

    • Absolutely true Todd. When will Catholic leaders speak out? What is happening in Nigeria is beyond shocking, but nobody reports on it. We can but pray.

  2. People need to educate themselves to the fact the US over threw the countries of Syria, a democratic government, for a pipeline.. Iran in 1953 for oil, a democratic government. The US instilled the sha, “king” over the people as a puppet of the US. The Sha, instilled by the USA, was the most murderous and torturous leader of the 1970’s. He was ousted by the people of Syria in 1979, and naturally after murdering and torture ran to the US his refuge and protection.. an “assumed” christian nation, as the baath party.
    Al Assad of Syria today, murders, tortures is people, as a leader of the baath party, christians. Trumps military actions were to pretect oil interests in Syria, not to protect the people, that flee for their lives..
    The US over threw the democratic Catholic, Guatemala in 1954, mastered by the Dulles brothers, one head of the CiA, other secretary of state, for their owning the land for United Fruit… “they were not Catholic.
    Inciting the over throw of Iran, Syria, Guatemala, the Dulles brothers own son, came to be, the first Cardinal of US Catholic church… must of prayed alot..
    wonder if he was a champion of the poor?
    Christains, Catholic “ties” have been very active, “evil” in the over throw of many countries, which would give reason to a disdain to, christains in many places.

    Saddam was in full retreat when the US swooped in after 911 and started the Iraq war.. Iraq has no connections to 911, but, Saudi Arabia was home to the majority of operatives… Today the US and Saudi Arabia work in unison to Genocide Yemen, thw worst crime against, the poor, humanity, ever in World history…

  3. My husband was wondering if the Pope made the agreement with China so that the Catholics would not be treated like the Uighurs.

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