2016 was a year of memorable and sometimes troubling headlines. Today, Emily Fuentes of Open Doors USA is discussing one you may not have encountered on mainstream media.
It’s the primary focus of their 2017 World Watch List: a ranking of the world’s 50 worst places to be a Christian.
“Persecution is increasing overall throughout the world. We’re seeing it particularly in the Middle East, Central Asia, and Africa,” says Fuentes.
2017 World Watch List: persecution uptick continues
This is the third consecutive year that persecution has noticeably risen, making the trend especially noteworthy. The uptick of violence perpetrated by radical Islam was one of the largest contributing factors.
In 2013, Christians living in “failed states” — countries in which “social and political structures have collapsed to the point where the government has little or no control” – experienced very high levels of persecution. The collapse of infrastructure in these nations resulted in increased pressure on believers.
As noted here, 2014 brought “historic levels” of persecution upon the Christian community. Africa saw the fastest growth, moving three nations into the top 10 for the first time: Sudan, Eritrea, and Nigeria. ISIS attacks in the Middle East triggered a mass exodus of Christian refugees.
The trend continued in 2015, with persecution exceeding even the historic levels of 2014. Christian oppression rose on every continent. Islamic extremism continued to be the primary driving force behind the expansion of persecution, with its rise being the lead generator of persecution for 35 out of the 50 nations on the list.
“Even though persecution is horrific in places like Iraq, Syria, Somalia, there’s no country that quite has the restrictions, violence, or targeting of Christians like North Korea,” observes Fuentes.
“No other place on earth is like North Korea in the number of Christians persecuted, the number of Christians killed. The very act of owning a Bible could get you killed on the spot.”
It’s no surprise that North Korea will top the 2017 World Watch List. Fuentes says 2016 was the hermit nation’s 14th year as the world’s top persecutor of Christians.
In November, human rights advocates discovered a new political labor camp near Pyongyang. Christians are usually sent to camps like these when their faith is discovered, and the conditions are equivalent to the Holocaust’s death camps.
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