Persecution of Christians accelerates dramatically in 2010

By January 5, 2011

International (MNN) — A rogue state tops the Open Doors
World Watch List — a ranking of 50 countries that are the worst persecutors of
Christians around the globe.

President and CEO of Open Doors USA Dr. Carl Moeller says,
"The worst country on earth to be a Christian is North Korea. North Korea
remains unstable, and out of that instability comes incredible, ferocious
persecution."

Today's release of the listing shows North Korea at No. 1
for the ninth year in a row. Moeller notes
there were no surprises on this year's list. However, "The biggest thing that
we learned from putting the list together this year is that the entire level of
persecution globally is accelerating at a really dramatic rate."

Last year, Iran was No. 2 followed by Saudi Arabia at No. 3.
Several countries might climb up on the list, including Pakistan (No. 14 in
2010) and Iraq (No. 17 last year) due to increased persecution over the past
12 months.

Moeller says, "Eight out of the top ten countries on
our World Watch List this year are Islamic countries
where Islamic extremism has gained the upper hand."

That can be troubling in places where there are sympathetic
leaders. A case in point is Tuesday's
assassination of the governor of Pakistan's Punjab province. A government official says Salman Taseer was
assassinated by his own security guard because he spoke out against the
country's controversial blasphemy law. "It is horrible to imagine the kind of
social situation that would justify or at least give an excuse to an extremist
in the very bodyguard of the governor of the state of Punjab to assassinate him
on the basis of the governor's opposition to these blasphemy laws."

Taseer put a spotlight on Pakistan's controversial law in
November when a Christian woman, Asia Bibi of Punjab province, was sentenced to
death for blasphemy. He believed the law was being misused for the
purpose of targeting minorities.

His thoughts about the law were correct, and Moeller agrees. "One of the worst situations that Christians
throughout the Middle East face are these ‘blasphemy' laws. It's typified by
the United Nations Resolution defending the rights of Islam to not be defamed.
Quickly said, 'defamation of religion' in that context means someone converting
to Christianity."

The backlash over Taseer's November statement was
immediate and deadly. And it's ongoing. Moeller says, "We've had a report
from one of our contacts on the ground in Pakistan that a national strike
is being called again by Islamic extremists to support these blasphemy laws and
to continue to hold this woman, Asia Bibi, as an example, to hold the
government to carry out her execution."  

Major attacks on Christians occurred during the Christmas
and New Year's holidays. In Egypt (No. 20 last year), at least 21 Christians
were killed in a bomb blast on New Year's Day outside Saints Church in
Alexandria. There were also killings of Christians in Iraq and Nigeria (No. 27
in 2010).

As the tension simmers over an articulated strategy to eradicate Christianity, Moeller says the
World Watch List's release is an important tool in a Christian response. "The
first thing we can do is to pray. 
Secondly, though, we can use our voice. Again, the World Watch List is a
great tool for us to speak to countries that are sensitive to religious
liberty. And lastly, this World Watch List also tells us the areas that need
our help the most. Many Christian
refugees are fleeing their homes, and we've got to be there supporting them."

The World Watch List ranks countries according to the
intensity of persecution Christians face for actively pursuing their faith. It
is compiled from Open Doors' indigenous contacts, field workers, and persecuted
believers based on answers to questions covering various aspects of religious
freedom.

There's more here.

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