2015 worst year on record for persecution of Christians
by James Morgan
How many of us complained about the cold weather this past Sunday when we cleaned the ice and snow off the car and hoped the engine would start so we could be at church on time? These are so-called “first world problems” that only affect those of us who live in affluent, free, and safe countries like Canada. A more difficult question to answer is: how many of us worshipped in hiding this past Sunday or tried to evade the authorities on our way to worship?
It may not be a problem for us, but for millions of Christians around the world it’s a difficult reality. Open Doors, a non-denominational ministry that aids the broader persecuted Church, has released its 2016 World Watch List, which details the 50 countries in the world where Christians face the most danger and persecution.
North Korea retains the number one spot on the list for the 13th consecutive year. The highly repressive, reclusive, and totalitarian communist country has received further attention in recent months for its treatment of Christians. Rev. Hyeon Soo Lim, a Korean-Canadian Presbyterian pastor from Mississauga, Ontario who has made many humanitarian visits to North Korea, was jailed there late in 2015 and sentenced to life in a labour camp. Canada has no direct diplomatic relations with North Korea, making the likelihood of the pastor’s release even more challenging.
Sadly, the World Watch List is breaking its own records: Open Doors had already declared 2014 the worst year it had seen for persecution of Christians, only for 2015’s numbers to overtake it. These are not the sort of statistics to celebrate. The over-arching theme in the remaining countries on the top ten part of the list that they are under the influence of radical Islam to varying degrees, especially the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)—also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or simply the Islamic State—and Boko Haram in Africa. Not surprisingly, the other nine countries are in the Middle East or northern and eastern Africa and include Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Sudan.
On the remaining part of the 2016 World Watch List, countries where Christians are in serious danger include Libya, Nigeria, Yemen, Turkey, Indonesia, and Myanmar (Burma).