The international Christian organization Open Doors released its annual World Watch List this week, naming the 50 countries where it says Christians face the worst persecution. For the first time in the 20 years that the list has been compiled, the situation for Christians did not improve in any country, Open Doors said.
For the tenth year running, North Korea topped the list. Open Doors reported that Christianity has been driven so far underground in North Korea that parents wait until their children are old enough to understand the dangers of practicing their faith before teaching them about it. The organization also estimated that between 50,000 and 70,000 Christians are currently interned in labor camps.
“How the death of Kim Jong Il last month and the coming to power of his son Kim Jong Un will affect the status of Christians in North Korea is hard to determine at this early stage,” Carl Moeller, president of Open Doors USA said in a statement.
The top five countries on the list also include Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Iran. The report indicated that changes of power have done little to improve things for Christians in other parts of the world.
“At the beginning of last year, we were expecting some changes in the Arab world and of course the political situation has changed,” Raymond Favre, Open Doors’ representative for francophone countries said in an interview. “But in terms of persecution basically it is the same except in Egypt where the persecution of Christians has increased.”
The country where things have deteriorated most since the 2011 report is Nigeria. At least 300 Christians were killed last year and sectarian violence has intensified over recent weeks. On Christmas Day, more than 35 people were killed in bomb attacks on churches across the country.
Open Doors provides training for pastors and distributes Bibles in countries where Christianity is suppressed, as well as advocating for political change. It is active in over 50 countries and estimates that 100 million Christians worldwide face persecution.