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Persecution worldwide: Most dangerous countries for Christians  

(Supplied Image)

ANTI-CHRISTIAN PRESSURE is rising most rapidly in South and Southeast Asia, according to the annual Open Doors World Watch List, released Jan. 11th.

The rise to power in India of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has unleashed a religiously motivated nationalist fervour, according to Open Doors researchers responsible for compiling the World Watch List. This index ranks the 50 countries where approximately 215 million Christians experience high levels of persecution due to their faith.

Five of the six countries whose underlying scores rose most sharply during the past year are in South and Southeast Asia: India, Bangladesh, Laos, Bhutan and Vietnam.

“A stand-out trend is that religious nationalism is driving the Asian countries up the list,” said Dr. Ron Boyd-MacMillan, Director for Strategic Research at Open Doors International.

Since the BJP won national elections in India in 2014, the pace of anti-Christian violence has accelerated in the country’s north, where as many as 40 million Christians live. “Insecure governments of neighbouring Hindu and Buddhist-majority countries have found appeals to national religious identity to provide a boost to their own position of power,” Boyd-MacMillan said.


The top 10

North Korea again ranks No. 1 on the 2017 World Watch List--for the 16th consecutive year. Open Doors rates Pyongyang’s dictatorial regime as unmatched in its hostility to religion.

Within the top 10 of the 2017 WWL, Somalia moved up 4 places to No. 2. The intensely tribal character of Somali society means any Muslim who converts to Christianity is immediately detected – which is enough to get you killed.

Overall, the top 10 on the WWL 2017 have been constant. Nine of the top 10 on the 2017 list also were among the top 10 on the previous year’s list: North Korea, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Eritrea.

In Iraq and Syria there were fewer reported incidents as most Christians have fled from ISIS-held areas but the pressure on Christians is still very high.

At No. 9 on the 2017 WWL, Yemen is the only newcomer to the top 10, displacing Libya. Yemeni Christians are caught in the middle of a civil war between the Saudi Arabia-backed loyalists and Iran-backed Houthi rebels. “The Christians in this country are getting it from different ends including Islamic militants such as ISIS and al-Qaeda; it doesn’t matter who’s in charge,” Boyd-MacMillan said.


Other trends

The average score for all 50 countries on the 2017 World Watch List increased slightly compared to 2016. Nearly a quarter of that increase is attributable to increasingly authoritarian regimes in eight countries in the Middle-East and Northern Africa.

Extremism has a freer hand in sub-Saharan Africa, where Islamic militancy is going mainstream. Money is flowing to Islamic politicians and schools, among other elements of society.

The WWL methodology defines ‘Christian’ (sociologically) as “anyone who self-identifies as a Christian and/or someone belonging to a Christian community as defined by the Church’s historic creeds.”

The Open Doors World Watch Research unit surveys discrimination in five areas of Christian life: private, family, community, national, and within the church. Separately, it measures violence against Christians. Scores for each of the six categories are combined to create a total score, which determines each country’s ranking on the World Watch List.

Open Doors’ research methods and results have been independently audited by the International Institute for Religious Freedom.

Open Doors has been monitoring the worldwide persecution of Christians since the 1970s. The 2017 World Watch List accounts for the 12 months ending October 31st, 2016.

It would not include the Dec. 11th bombing at the main Coptic cathedral in Cairo that killed 25 people and wounded 49 more. Most of the victims were women and children. An explosive device was planted in a chapel adjacent to St Mark’s Cathedral, seat of Egypt’s Orthodox Christian Church. The blast coincided with a national holiday in Egypt marking the birth of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.

Open Doors equips persecuted Christians in more than 60 countries through programs like Bible & Gospel Development, Women’s & Children’s Advancement, Advocacy and Christian Community Restoration.    TAP                                                                                                     –Canadian Christian News Service

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