As the Western world stands in shock at the brutal murder of magazine employees and police officers by radical Muslims in Paris, the new World Watch List suggests Islamic violence throughout the world is spawning the most significant increase in the persecution of Christians on record and that likely means more intense repression of all kinds is not far behind.
On Wednesday, Open Doors USA, one of the leading organizations serving the persecuted Christian church released the 24th World Watch List, which lists the 50 nations most fiercely persecuting Christians.
“The 2015 Watch List documents the most dramatic increase in violence and persecution of Christians in the modern era. So it’s really dramatic,” said Open Doors President and CEO Dr. David Curry.
Curry unveiled the World Watch List in Washington, but he is very concerned that leaders in the U.S. and elsewhere in the Western world fail to grasp the significance of this dramatic rise in the targeting of Christians and what it means for believers and nonbelievers down the road.
“I really feel like the world just doesn’t get it,” Curry said. “They don’t understand that the persecution of Christians is a major story, is a major issue. It’s growing, and it’s a lead indicator of where oppression is coming for everyone else. Everywhere you look where there’s a major outbreak in the world today, first it was Christians. That’s what happened in Iraq. For 10 years, they pushed Christians out (even before the rise of the Islamic State).”
He added, “Mark my words: If the world doesn’t wake up to this, it’s going to come their direction.”
Listen to the WND/Radio America interview with Dr. David Curry:
Several African nations witnessed the most dramatic increases in Christian persecution over the past year. Kenya soared from 43 to 19 on the list. Djibouti rose from 46 to 24. Nigeria is now in the top 10, and Sudan jumped from 11 to 6. Curry said the reasons are pretty simple.
“The Islamic extremists that have been residing within Africa are learning the lessons of the Islamic State. They’re taking the tactics, the strategies of the Islamic State, and seeing the success that they’ve had with this leadership vacuum in the Middle East from Western governments. Now they’re implementing it in Africa,” said Curry, who said America was reminded again that no part of the world is truly safe.
“We’re not safe in the West from radical ideologies,” he said. “Unfortunately, I believe in times to come, we’re going to see attacks on churches in the West. We are seeing attacks in the West already. We saw one today in France.”
As horrifying as Wednesday’s massacre was inside and outside the offices of “Charlie Hebdo” in Paris, Curry said that is a daily occurrence for believers in many countries.
“Just to put it in a little bit of perspective, we’re mourning today the loss of 12 lives in France at the satirical magazine,” he said. “Boko Haram kills 10 Christians every single day. If you average it out last year, every day Boko Haram executed 10 Christians.”
Other noteworthy items on the list includes a drop from six to 12 for Saudi Arabia, but Curry said that’s no reason to be encouraged about religious freedom there.
“There’s no freedom for Christians,” he said. “There’s no churches allowed for Christians. There’s no distribution of Bibles or freedom for people to convert to Christianity if they so choose. People can’t think for themselves and decide for themselves whether they’re going to have faith or no faith and what that faith will be. It’s a sad state of affairs in Saudi Arabia. They did drop, only because other nations were even more violent and even more oppressive than Saudi Arabia this year.”
North Korea tops the list for the 13th straight year, while Somalia comes in second. Curry said North Korea is far and away the worst persecutor of Christians, and the conditions are actually much worse than the World Watch List suggests.
“Frankly, we have a difficult time documenting all the violence,” he said. “We only report in the World Watch List what we can absolutely document. So when we say the number of Christians executed for their faith has doubled in the last year, many of the people who we believe were killed in North Korea are not even included in that number.”
Two nations in the Western hemisphere made the list. Colombia dropped from 25 to 35, but Mexico joined the list at number 38. Curry said the rampant violence aimed at priests and pastors by drug cartels is the main reason why.
Even as persecution reaches undocumented heights, Curry said the positive and peaceful mindset of oppressed believers is truly inspiring.
“What’s so heartwarming is the human side of it,” he said. “I was just talking with a widow today. She was widowed because Boko Haram attacked her husband, a Christian who was a lay minister in the church. They stabbed him to death, and her response was so loving. It was just to forgive in the name of Jesus.”
Curry added, “When you see the power of the human spirit when people are following the words of Jesus, it’s so inspiring. So there’s hope because God gives hope, but these situations are very dire in human terms.”