One important part of our ministry over many recent years has been the annual Open Doors World Watch List. Since 2003, through research conducted by contacts and leaders in the field, Open Doors have ranked the top 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.
Although Open Doors and our supporters have been aware of the suffering faced by Christians for many decades, the past 12 months particularly, have seen a wave of persecution directed at Christian communities making international headlines:
- The Islamic State sweeping across Iraq and the civil war in Syria seeing scores killed and displacing hundreds of thousands of people.
- The April kidnapping of more than 250 girls from the predominately Christian village of Chibok in Nigeria.
- The imprisonment of Christian Meriam Ibrahim in Sudan.
- The brutal November murder of Christian couple Shama Bibi and Shehzad Masih in Pakistan – the list goes on and on.
The Top 10 countries where Christians face the most pressure and violence in 2015 are:
- North Korea
How does this persecution translate into the newly released World Watch List?
Sadly, despite these well publicised events, North Korea (1) remains the world’s toughest country in which to be a Christian in 2015, for the 13th year in a row. Life continues to be extremely difficult for believers – even for those who are not amongst the thousands languishing in labour camps, danger can come at any time; in the wake of the kidnapping and arrest of South Korean missionary Kim Jeong-Wook and his public ‘confession’ in February 2014, for example, dozens of people (presumably Christians) were caught and many tortured and murdered.
Source of Persecution: Islamic Extremism
Islamic extremism is a main factor in 18 of the top 20, and main or contributing factor in 40 countries of the Top 5. But there are many other sources of persecution on the list.
- ‘Organised corruption’ is the main or contributing cause in 25 countries (including Colombia and Mexico).
- ‘Dictatorial paranoia’ – where leaders seek to control religious expression – is the primary source of persecution in 13 countries (like North Korea).
- And many countries have more than one source of persecution, including ‘antagonism from tribal beliefs’ or ‘oppression from communism’.
Whatever the reason, we hope you will join with us in praying for the hundreds of thousands of Christians around the world who have continued to be persecuted for their faith in the past 12 months. As Brother Andrew, founder of Open Doors, reminds us: “If we want to leave an indelible mark on the world, there is no more powerful way to do it than by joining in God’s purposes through prayer. Our prayers can go where we cannot.”
You can find more information on the 2015 World Watch List online at worldwatchlist.org.au.
2015 marks 60 years since Open Doors began, established by Brother Andrew, a Dutch Christian who wanted to share the Bible with his persecuted brothers and sisters behind the Iron Curtain. What blessings God has given Open Doors since then! We now work in more than 60 countries and share God’s word in some of the most restricted nations on earth. You can find out more about Open Doors at our website.