For the 15th consecutive year North Korea tops the list of countries deemed most dangerous for Christians, according to Open Doors USA. And 2016 is now labeled the “worst year of persecution of Christians on record.”
Open Doors, which has aided Christians threatened by hostile governments and extremist groups for more than 60 years, provides an annual report card of sorts with its World Watch List.
During the release of the 2017 list Jan. 11 in Washington, Open Doors officials explained that the list is calculated with an equation that takes into account crimes against Christians and restrictions on practice.
The totals are based on a 100-point system.
“A shocking 215 million Christians experienced high levels of persecution for their faith [in 2016],” said David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors.
“Nearly 1 in every 12 Christians in the world today lives in an area or in a culture in which Christianity is illegal, forbidden or punished.
“And yet today the world is largely silent on the shocking wave of religious intolerance,” he added.
U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., who spoke at the news conference, said the persecution of Christians is not just “something that happened 2,000 years ago that we read about in the Bible.”
The list is 50 countries long, with the most problematic concentrated in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Aderholt was joined by U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., who has tried to push persecuted religious minorities higher on the agenda of both Congress and presidential administrations since being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1980.
Smith said he had not talked to President-elect Donald Trump about the issue but had given a copy of a bill he is sponsoring to strengthen protections for Christians abroad to Vice President-elect Mike Pence.
Curry, who met with Trump in October 2016 and Jan. 10, went as far as to say that if the Trump Administration doesn’t take the persecution of religious groups around the world seriously then his administration will ultimately fail.
Religious liberty “is the central issue that they’re going to have to deal with, whether you’re looking at it through the lens of immigration, whether you’re looking at it through the lens of terrorism,” Curry said.
The rest of the top 10 most dangerous countries are Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen and Eritrea.
Open Doors’ list “is a crucial and sobering source of information to help Christians know how to pray and advocate for their persecuted brothers and sisters,” said Travis Wussow, vice president for public policy and general counsel of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
“This advocacy makes a real difference in shaping U.S. policy, which can in turn play a crucial role in protecting the persecuted church around the world.”
In written remarks, Wussow encouraged “all believers to review the report and select one or two countries and pray for the Church there by name.”
To watch the news conference, visit www.opendoorsusa.org/videos/.
To download the full report, visit www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/world-watch-list/. (RNS, BP)
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