DETROIT (ChurchMilitant.com) - Open Doors, a nonprofit organization with more than 60 years of experience supporting persecuted believers in more than 60 countries, has published its World Watch List for Christian persecution around the world. The two main culprits are Communism and Islam.
In its 2020 report, Open Doors notes that one in eight Christians around the world are under serious threat. Here are some of its findings, in a nutshell:
North Korea and Afghanistan are the two biggest perpetrators.
North Korea has topped the list since 2002, when Open Doors began its official persecution-watch list. The totalitarian Communist government sees any allegiance besides that directed to "Dear Leader" Kim Jong-un as a threat to the state. The mere possession of a Bible is grounds for arrest, torture and life imprisonment in a labor camp, which often ends up to be a death sentence. Currently, according to reports, 50,000–75,000 Christians live inside North Korea's prison system. Starvation and physical and mental abuse are part and parcel of their sentence.
In the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Christians are also seen as traitors; however, they are "traitors" to Islam rather than to the (atheist) state. Afghanistan is 99% Muslim — 90% Sunni and 10% Shia. Open Doors reports that the Taliban continues to increase in strength, threatening the lives of secret Christians across the area.
Vatican News reported Wednesday that a Catholic priest in Nigeria released a new appeal to the international community to take action as Christians continue to be persecuted and murdered in his country.
"Every day our brothers and sisters are slaughtered in the streets," says Fr. Joseph Bature Fidelis of the Maiduguri diocese. He made his plea directly the papal charity, Aid to the Church in Need.
Fidelis informs the world that the situation in northern Nigeria, about which Church Militant reported last month, continues to deteriorate. His latest appeal follows the abduction of four young seminarians in the city of Kaduna, in northwestern Nigeria.
This abduction is the latest in a long line of attacks and murders of Christians in the region; an estimated 1,000 Nigerian Christians were murdered in 2019 for their faith and 6,000 have been killed since 2015.
Fidelis pleaded in a video message:
I ask the government of Italy, the country where I studied, and all European governments to put pressure on our government to do something to defend us. Otherwise we risk extermination ... Our people are suffering so much. Please help us not be silent in the face of this immense extermination that is taking place in silence.
Tribal animists in eastern India threatened to "chop" Christians "to pieces" before burning the church to the ground amid escalating persecution. And in Harobele, an Indian village of 3,500 where Christians form a majority, hardline Hindus gathered to protest a planned statue of Jesus that will rival the size of Rio de Janeiro's "Christ The Redeemer." It will go "against the spirit of communal harmony," the protestors claim. The land on which the statue will be placed is owned by the archdiocese of Bangalore.
"The Chinese government has now placed severe restrictions and policies on the house churches [where faith is practiced in secret] asking neighbors to spy on one another, pressuring school teachers and college professors to betray and sign a statement to denounce their own faith as well to do the same to students," said Jian Zhu, pastor of a church in China.
David Curry, the president and CEO of Open Doors USA, stated: "The drivers of persecution are still very significantly entrenched. Islamic extremism is spreading in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia. Then you add this rise of surveillance technology and strategy by China."
Though it is not recorded in Open Doors' World Watch List, western observers see a growing movement of "soft persecution" in formerly Christian nations where secular progressivism has permeated the culture and government. Ireland, Spain, Canada and the United States are among those that have been in the news of late for violations of basic human rights and religious freedom.