International (ODM/MNN) — The Fund for Peace Failed States Index and the Open Doors World Watch List resemble each other this year.
According to Open Doors USA*, overall the top 10 countries where Christians faced the most pressure and violence in 2013 are: North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Maldives, Pakistan, Iran, and Yemen.
A major trend which the Open Doors World Watch List (WWL) tracked in 2013 was a marked increase in persecution for Christian communities living in “failed states.” A failed country is defined “as a weak state where social and political structures have collapsed to the point where government has little or no control.” (For the complete list, go to www.worldwatchlist.us.)
This year’s WWL Top 10 contains six failed states: Somalia (#2), Syria (#3), Iraq (#4), Afghanistan (#5), Pakistan (#8), and Yemen (#10). Another newly failed, war-torn state–the Central African Republic (CAR)–made the list for the first time at #16. Libya (#13) and Nigeria (#14) remain very high.
Open Doors USA president and CEO David Curry explains, “What we see are situations where there’s large political unrest, where there are dictators that are falling, where there are systems that have been in place a long time that have been replaced by up and coming regimes, and it has brought pressure against Christians.”
It is notable that North Korea, for the 12th consecutive year, remains the world’s most restrictive nation in which to practice Christianity. However, the trend of “failed states” shows that 2014 may not be much of an improvement in terms of the persecution of Christians. Curry says, “Nine of those top 10 are in the Middle East. We’re seeing large trends where Islamic extremists are trying to exterminate Christianity.”
“Failed States” usually equal chaos and corruption. The combination of those two elements usually means a lot of things go under the radar, including “religicide.” As a result, Christians are being persecuted nearly out of existence in some places. “We’re seeing a drop in the percentage of the population from over 20% 100 years ago, to 4% or less today.”
The data also brought a surprise from Nigeria. The ranking actually improved during a year that started with Boko Haram church attacks nearly every Sunday. Says Curry, “It’s dropped because the incidents and the intensity in the other countries is so much greater.”
Overwhelmingly, the main engine driving persecution of Christians in 36 of the top 50 countries is Islamic extremism, with the most violent region being the states of the African Sahel belt (a semi-arid zone extending from Senegal on the Atlantic Ocean eastward to Sudan and the Red Sea) where a fifth of the world’s Christians meet one seventh of the world’s Muslims in perilous proximity.
This year’s World Watch List is the most comprehensive study of the systematic persecution of Christians ever done. Curry adds, “The 2014 WWL is a wakeup call to Americans to become more aware of these atrocities and restrictions on religious freedom.”
A total of 2,123 Christians were martyred in 2013 compared to 1,201 the previous year. Syria had the most martyrs with 1,213, followed by Nigeria 612, Pakistan 88, Egypt 83, Kenya 20, Angola 16, Niger 15, Iraq 11, CAR 9, and Colombia 8.
The death total in North Korea is not available due to the extreme difficulty to obtain public information from the secluded country. Curry concludes that if nothing is done, more freedoms will erode. “People are attacking Christians for their faith. We need to make this a point of public policy. Christians need to stand up and let their voice be heard.”
Dr. Ronald Boyd-MacMillan, head of Strategy and Research for Open Doors International, says, “It is our intent through the WWL to encourage more people and organizations to carefully study the needs and stories of persecuted Christians, and as a result, deepen the passion to pray for them.
Most importantly, “The WWL is more than a set of numbers. It must also be seen as a human document, reflecting millions of sad but also amazing stories of strong faith.” As Open Doors partners continue to tirelessly share the Word of God, they will be targets of the extremists. Prayer is essential in spiritual warfare, but resources mean that Open Doors teams can still respond in times of need. More often than not, believers who aren’t living in these nations simply don’t know what’s happening. Share their story. There are links on how you can get involved here.
*Open Doors is an international ministry which has been supporting and strengthening persecuted Christians around the world for almost 60 years.