The use of technology is advancing and strengthening Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA CEO David Curry.
“Christian faith is under attack, and the methods of that persecution are becoming more sophisticated and thus pose a greater threat,” Curry said Jan. 15 in releasing the organization’s 2020 World Watch List of countries where persecution is most severe.
The World Watch List annually ranks countries based on violence and systemic pressure in five spheres of Christian life: the church, community, family, private life and national involvement.
Open Doors counted 260 million Christians who experienced high levels of persecution in the 50 countries listed, 2,983 who were killed for their faith and 3,711 who were detained without trial, arrested, sentenced or imprisoned. Attacks on churches and Christian buildings totaled 9,488.
Topping the list for the 18th consecutive year is North Korea, where some 300,000 Christians are persecuted under the regime of leader Kim Jong-un.
“If North Korean Christians are discovered, they are deported to labor camps as political criminals or even killed on the spot,” according to the Open Doors report. “Driven by the state, Christian persecution in North Korea is extreme and meeting other Christians to worship is nearly impossible unless it’s done in complete secrecy.”
Rounding out the top 10, in descending rank, are Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, Pakistan, Eritrea, Sudan, Yemen, Iran and India.
Completing the list, in descending rank, are Syria, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Maldives, Iraq, Egypt, Algeria, Uzbekistan, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Turkmenistan, China, Mauritania, Central African Republic, Morocco, Qatar, Burkina Faso, Mali, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Nepal, Jordan, Tunisia, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Brunei, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Malaysia, Colombia, Oman, Kuwait, Kenya, Bhutan, Russian Federation, United Arab Emirates, Cameroon, Indonesia and Niger.
While North Korea claims the top spot in overall Christian persecution, Nigeria remains the most physically violent country for Christians to live in, Open Doors said, with violent Islamic extremism especially active there and spreading to other areas of sub-Saharan Africa.
Radical Islam is also spreading violence and fear in Southeast and South Asia with “completely unexpected atrocities” including Easter attacks on churches and hotels.
In China, which ranks No. 23 on the list, the government has installed surveillance cameras and employs facial recognition technology to track Christians more than ever, punishing them for their Christian lives.
“Iran [ranked 9th] is interested in this technology,” Curry said, “and you can imagine how, in the hands of an Islamic regime, this could be a massive tragedy” for people of other faiths.
Christian persecution “is worse in every theater around the world,” Curry said, but he reported hope despite the trends and spiking numbers.
“I think there’s hope in that Christians are building community even in the midst of this persecution, and people, even at high government levels, are talking about it, recognizing that this is a problem,” he said.
He encouraged Christians to share the persecution list, to read the report’s stories of individual persecution and to pledge to pray weekly for the persecuted church at ODUSA.org/pledge, which offers an app with prayer requests and reports of answered prayer.
“We’re asking people to take a prayer pledge, once a week, to pray for persecuted believers,” he said. “We’d love for tens of millions of Christians to be praying for the persecuted church on a weekly basis.” (BP, TAB)