International (MNN)–For the third straight year, communist North Korea tops the 2005 Open Doors’ World Watch list for their brutal persecution of Christians.
They’re followed by Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Laos and Iran. Open Doors’ Jerry Dykstra says it’s not an arbitrary listing. “There’s a lot of factors that go into the list. Obviously, the ability to practice your faith in these countries, the degree of persecution, the freedom of religion, whether you can worship or not.”
In fact, the World Watch List is based on information from Open Doors’ indigenous contacts, field workers and from members of the persecuted church.
This year, five of the top 10 are Islamic-dominated countries, four have communist regimes in power, and one country, Bhutan, is dominated by Buddhism.
“North Korea is the most repressed and isolated nation in the world,” says Dr. Carl Moeller, President of Open Doors USA. “Tens of thousands of Christians are among prisoners held in politico-labor camps. Yet we hear reports of how the church in North Korea continues to grow.”
The desert kingdom of Saudi Arabia requires all its citizens to be Muslims. For a Saudi to convert to another religion, the consequences can be severe. It’s a Sharia law state where conversion to another religion is punishable by death.
One of the few communist nations in the world, Vietnam considers Christians to be a hidden enemy. Authorities fear that Evangelical Christianity, suspected to be connected to the United States, is being used in a peaceful revolution against the communist system. As a result, their crackdown on believers resulted in the country moving up one place to number three.
Newcomers to the top 10 were Somalia and Afghanistan. Somalia moved up four places to seventh in the rankings primarily because, Moeller says, “Christian converts from Islam are paying a high price for their new faith,” adding, “especially in rural parts of this most lawless country in the world.”
The purpose for the list? Dykstra explains, “It’s really a reminder to pray for our brothers and sisters in these countries and we need to keep that in mind daily, in our prayers. So, these are reminders of what is happening in those countries and how we can pray for them.”
Here’s the listing:
1. North Korea
2. Saudi Arabia
17. Myanmar (Burma)
25. Nigeria (north)
27. Russian Federation
29. Sri Lanka
31. Mexico (Chiapas)
36. Colombia (conflict areas)
43. United Arab Emirates
48. Kenya (northeast)