According to a recent report by Open Doors USA, more than 215 million Christians are persecuted worldwide. The report cites the rise of radical Islam and religious extremism as the primary drivers of violent acts toward Christians.
Open Doors USA released its annual ranking of the 50 worst countries for violence and persecution against Christians entitled “The 2018 World Watch List”. Topping the list of worst offenders for the 16th straight year is North Korea.
Despite the communist government’s propagandist pronouncements that its constitution respects freedom of religion, Christians who openly express their faith often find themselves facing arrest, “re-education” inside a labour camp and in extreme cases, execution.
In what may be regarded as a silver lining for Christianity, Open Doors USA disclosed that the underground Christian movement in North Korea is gaining tremendous traction.
The report estimates that there may be up to 300,000 Christians practicing their faith privately in North Korea.
Coming in a close second is Afghanistan which is 99% Muslim. Afghan citizens are strictly prohibited from converting to Christianity which is perceived by society as a “shameful apostasy”. Open Doors USA reveals a disturbing trend that Afghans would kill family members who embraced the Christian faith.
Open Doors USA’s report identified Islam extremism as the number one instigator of violence toward Christians in eight out of the 10 countries on the list.
In Somalia, where Islamic militancy continues to be on the rise, Christians are martyred once they are discovered. Egypt, India, Libya and Kazakhstan also showed marked increases in violent acts toward Christians.
Islamic militants in Pakistan carry out missions specifically targeting Christians. The 2016 Easter Sunday suicide bombing killed 74 Christians and injured more than a hundred people.
Rising religious nationalism is also fanning the flames of atrocities against Christians. The report states a direct correlation between the increase in Christian persecution and religious nationalism in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Azerbaijan.
On the other hand, organized crime and corruption were cited as the main causes of Christian persecution in Mexico and Colombia.
The report showed that during the period of the study 3,066 Christians were killed; 1,252 were kidnapped; 1,020 were raped or sexually harassed while a total of 793 churches were attacked.