Christianity typically isn’t the religion that comes to mind when you think about religious persecution, but a new report suggests at least 215 million Christians live in areas with high persecution. Worldwide, an estimated 1 in 12 Christians are persecuted for their faith.
In 2017, religious persecution against Christians resulted in 3,066 deaths, 1,252 kidnappings, and 1,020 rapes. Nearly 800 churches were attacked. These figures come from Open Doors, a watchdog organization that monitors the treatment of Christians throughout the world.
Open Doors publishes an annual list of the 50 most dangerous countries for Christians. Among this year’s list were Turkey and India, two US allies. At the top of the list was North Korea, where just 1% of the population identifies as Christian. In North Korea, all public worship is illegal. Second on the list was Afghanistan, which lacks a strong government and has a population that is mostly Muslim.
“The primary driver of persecution in North Korea is the state,” reports Open Doors. “For three generations, everything in the country focused on idolizing the leading family. Christians are seen has hostile elements in society that have to be eradicated.” North Korea has topped the list since 2002.
“Imagine in your mind a leader that thinks he’s god but acts like an animal…where people are forced to worship at the state of Kim Jong Un and bow down and lay flowers at his feet,” said Open Doors CEO David Curry on Wednesday.
Christians in North Korea face persecution not only from state authorities, but also from non-Christian neighbors who are likely to report them simply for owning a Bible.
“A shocking trend in the world watchlist I want to highlight for you today is the increase in persecution of Christian women,” said Curry. “The data seems to prove that Christian women are the most vulnerable population today with sexual harassment and rape and forced marriage being prime tactics from extremists against the world against Christians.”
Of the top 50 countries, 35 have the “driver of Islamic extremism,” says Curry. “This isn’t to taint all of Islam, but we have to be clear that there is an Islamic extremist element which must be addressed.”
Such violence is increasing in India, Turkey, and Egypt.
In India, both Christians and Muslims are persecuted by “Hindu extremists.” These extremists are reportedly linked to Indian President Narendra Modi’s ruling party.
India ranks 11th on the list.
The United States has massive commerce with India, and Curry suggests the US could use economic leverage to support Christians there.
“Open Doors exists to support and to advocate for persecuted Christians wherever they may be in the world,” says Curry. “We are asking that the world begin to use its power and its influence to push for justice, that we would use the list to direct us where justice is needed most in the world today.”