Identified persecutors of Christians

North Korea, that reclusive, violent nation where dictator Kim Jong-il demands his subjects worship him and often executes those who don’t, remains atop the 2011 World Watch List assembled by Open Doors, but eight of the top 10 nations are dominated by Muslims, whose persecution of Christians is surging.

The Santa Ana, Calif., ministry works with indigenous Christians worldwide where they are persecuted by governments or majority populations, and has since founder Brother Andrew started delivering Bibles behind the Iron Curtain in the 1950s. Its assessment of the threat to Christians comes from the individuals who face those dangers daily.

While North Korea remains No. 1 because of its total repression of faith, the organization reports in its 2011 listing of dangers, “the most dangerous countries in which to practice Christianity are overwhelmingly Islamic.”

Even last year, ministry spokesman Jerry Dykstra confirmed that the Islamic persecution of Christians was on the rise – “a growing trend.”

This year, it’s worse.

“Of the top 10 countries on the 2011 WWL, eight have Islamic majorities. Persecution has increased in seven of them,” the ministry reported today.

“They are Iran, which clamps down on a growing house church movement; Afghanistan, where thousands of believers cluster deep underground; and Saudi Arabia, which still refuses to allow any Saudi person to convert to Christianity. Others are lawless Somalia, ruled by bloodthirsty terrorists threatening to kill Christian aid workers who feed Somalia’s starving, impoverished people; tiny Maldives, which mistakenly boasts it is 100 percent Islamic; Yemen with its determination to expel all Christian workers; and Iraq, which saw extremists massacre 58 Christians in a Baghdad cathedral on Oct. 31,” the report said.

“Of the top 30 countries, only seven have a source other than Islamic extremists as the main persecutors of Christians,” Open Doors reports.

The Iraq ranking came despite the U.S. influence in that nation since Saddam Hussein was removed from power, hunted down and executed.

The organization annually assembles the listing of persecutors from a list of questions dispatched to Open Doors workers, church leaders and others inside the world’s nations.

The organization analyzes aspects of persecution from the degree of legal restrictions imposed on believers to church freedoms up to anti-Christian riots and the murders of Christians.

Open Doors is positioned uniquely to provide the research as it is the world’s largest mission agency working on behalf of the persecuted, operating in more than 45 countries worldwide.

This year, a video introduces the report:

Open Doors reports that documentation of Christians being martyred reveals that there have been more Christians tortured and killed for their faith in the last 100 years than in the previous 1,900 years.

The top 10 nations for 2011 are North Korea, Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Maldives, Yemen, Iraq, Uzbekistan and Laos, which has a Communist government. Iraq is new to the top 10 list while Mauritania dropped out, going from No. 8 to No. 13.

Kim Jong-il, who demands North Koreans worship him

Open Doors reports the nation with the “greatest deterioration” of Christian religious freedom during the reporting period Nov. 1, 2009, through Oct. 31, 2010, was Iraq.

“The country has seen a Christian exodus in recent years, with an estimated 334,000 Christians remaining in this ancient cradle of Christianity, a drop of more than 50 percent since the 2003 toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime,” the report said.

“The main reason why Christians are fleeing is organized violence by an extremist militia, especially in the northern city of Mosul and in the capital Baghdad, in an attempt to cleanse these areas of its Christian presence. At least 90 Christians were martyred last year in Iraq while hundreds more were injured in bomb and gun attacks. More killings have taken place in the past two weeks,” the report said.

“Being a Muslim Background Believer or ‘Secret Believer’ in a Muslim-dominated country puts a bull’s-eye on the backs of Christians,” Open Doors USA President Carl Moeller said. “There is either no freedom to believe or little freedom of religion. And as the 2011 World Watch List reflects, the persecution of Christians in these Muslim countries continues to increase.”

He cited the case of Christian Asia Noreen (Bibi) who remains in prison in Pakistan after being sentenced to death on a “false blasphemy charge.” She reportedly argued with neighbors who were demanding that she convert to Islam by saying that her savior, Jesus Christ, was alive.

The report said the country with the largest Christian community on the WWL’s top 15 is Pakistan with more than five million believers. But it said Pakistani Christians also faced a sharp erosion of their religious liberty with the country leaping from No. 14 to No. 11.

“Twenty-nine Christians were martyred in the reporting period with at least one killing occurring every month. Four Christians were sentenced to long terms in jail for blasphemy against Islam, at least 58 Christians were kidnapped, more than 100 Christians were assaulted and 14 churches and properties were damaged,” the report said.

Afghanistan, another Muslim-dominated region, rose from No. 6 to No. 3, following “ugly demonstrations when footage of Muslims being baptized was shown on network television. Dozens of Christians from the tiny Afghan church have had to move due to subsequent death threats, and in August a 10-person medical aid team from a Christian organization was slaughtered.”

The grisliest work of Islam during 2010, however, was in Nigeria. There, “a staggering 2,000 Christians lost their lives in riots caused by Muslim extremists in some of the northern states in the country.”

There, 12 northern states adopted Islamic Shariah law, providing the impetus for the attacks on Christians, the report said.

Just in the last few days, 21 Christians were killed in a bombing at a Christian church in Alexandria, Egypt, the report noted.

Maryam Rustampoor and Marzieh Amirzadeh were arrested in Iran during 2009 just for being Christian

While the biggest overall threat is from Islamic influences, the reported noted, “There is no question that North Korea deserves its No. 1 ranking.”

“The state’s attitude towards Christians is extremely hostile – they should not exist. There is no freedom to build churches or to worship in homes. Possession of Christian materials is punishable by death,” the report said.

“In May 2010 a group of 23 Christians was discovered. The police found Bibles and other Christian literature. Three people were publicly executed, and the others disappeared within the infamous Yodok Prison camp. It is estimated that between 50,000 and 70,000 Christians suffer in prison camps,” the report said.

The listing of the nations, and further details on their attacks on Christians, is at Open Doors’ website.

The organization estimates 100 million Christians worldwide suffer interrogation, arrest and even death for their faith in Christ, with millions more facing discrimination and alienation.

Prominent on the list were several of America’s “allies,” including No. 4 Saudi Arabia, where “religious freedom does not exist.”

“Citizens are only allowed to adhere to one religion. No protection, legal or otherwise, is provided for non-Muslims residents. The legal system is based on Islamic law … Apostasy is punishable by death if the accused does not recant.”

In No. 6 Maldives, “Legislation forbids the practice of any religion except Islam … churches are forbidden, importing Christian materials is prohibited, discrimination of non-Muslims is total…”

The only other Top 10 non-Muslim persecutor was No. 10 Laos, where “at least 25 Christians were killed; at least another 20 were arrested and held without trial.”

New on the list were Malaysia and Russia. In Malaysia, “building churches is almost impossible” and Christians were attacked because a court ruled that Christians were allowed to say “allah.”

In Russia, three Christian leaders were killed because they were “too active” in the work among converted Muslims.

Read the full report.

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