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Christian persecution in 2013

January 17, 2013 No Comment

by James Morgan

watch-listWORLD – It is not the kind of list any country should want to be on. Open Doors, a non-denominational organization dedicated to assisting persecuted Christians around the world, has released its 2013 World Watch List. The list ranks the fifty countries where persecution of Christians is most severe.

Once again, North Korea rank number one as the place where Christians endure the most hardship. A recent change in leadership in that country in which Kim Jong-Un succeed his late father Kim Jong-Il has not reduced North Korea’s brutality towards Christians. “In fact, persecution of Christians has increased,” says Open Doors spokesman Jerry Dykstra in a news release. “Reportedly, one labour camp alone could hold up to 6,000 Christians.”

The other four countries in the top five are Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia. Communist North Korea is officially atheist while the other countries in the top five have varying forms of Islam as their dominant religions. Interestingly, officially Islamic Iran ranks eighth and communist China ranks 37th, far behind the other two communist nations on the list. Laos is ranked 18th and Vietnam 21st.

Open Doors notes that while the Chinese government continues to monitor Christian activity in the country, raids of Christian meetings and the confiscation of literature have become less common. Still, an estimated 100 Chinese Christians remain imprisoned for their faith. No countries in North America or Europe are on the list, and just one South American country, Columbia, appears at 46th.

Countries that have experienced revolutions since 2011, such as Egypt, Libya, Syria, and Tunisia all remain in the rankings as well. Prior to civil war in Syria, the ruling Assad dictatorship allowed Christians to practice their faith but not to evangelize. Open Doors reports that the situation has deteriorated for Christians, with reports that rebels fighting against the regime have also been persecuting Christians. As a result, the country’s ranking has risen from 36th in 2012 to 11th in 2013.

Mali, once a relatively safe country for Christians is now on the list for the first time, ranking seventh. Muslim fundamentalists have taken control of large parts of the country, causing hundreds of Christians to flee.  “Currently the situation in northern Mali is similar to Saudi Arabia,” says Dykstra, adding “Christians are simply no longer allowed to be there.”

The World Watch List is based on reports from Open Doors field researchers, external experts, and academics. Open Doors was founded in 1955 by Dutch evangelist Brother Andrew and initially focused on assisting Christians in the Soviet Union and other formerly communist countries in Eastern Europe. In the 1970s and 1980s, it began work in the Middle East, Africa, and Southeast Asia.

Download the complete report from Open Door’s website.


James Morgan is a writer and former broadcaster living in Gatineau, Quebec where he is completing a Ph.D in History at the University of Ottawa. His home congregation is Trinity Lutheran near Gowanstown, Ontario, and he also worships at the Lutheran Tri-Parish of Western Quebec.

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