WASHINGTON (BP)—Islamic extremism, especially in Africa and the Middle East, dominates the latest annual report on global persecution of Christians.
Eight of the top 10 persecutors of Christians—and 24 of the top 30—are countries marked by militant Islam, according to Open Doors’ 2013 World Watch List released Jan. 8.
Meanwhile, North Korea, a non-Islamic country, maintained its hold on the No. 1 spot in the Open Doors list for the 11th consecutive year.
“Islamic extremism is the prime persecutor of Christians in the world today,” said Ron Boyd-MacMillan, Open Doors’ chief strategy officer, at a Washington, D.C., news conference. Among 24 of the leading 30 persecuting countries, “it is Islamic extremists, either in government or in violent opposition forces, that are the source of the persecution,” he said.
The new list of the world’s most severe persecutors of Christians includes five African countries that were unranked last year but reached the top 50 because of the impact of Islamic extremism: Mali (No. 7); Tanzania (No. 24); Kenya (No. 40); Uganda (No. 47), and Niger (No. 50).
In addition, militant Islam in Ethiopia helped catapult that East African country from No. 38 to No. 15. The Muslim state of Sudan, Ethiopia’s neighbor, jumped from 16th to 12th.
The uprisings against totalitarian states in North Africa and the Middle East that began about two years ago have produced greater persecution for Christians, according to Open Doors.
“The Arab Spring has turned into an Islamic Winter for the Christians in the Middle East,” Boyd-MacMillan told reporters. “In every country where a regime has been deposed—such as Tunisia, Libya, Morocco and Egypt—Islam is still in power and putting pressure on the Christian minority.”
The top 10 countries on Open Doors’ latest World Watch List, which covered November 2011 through October 2012, are: (1) North Korea; (2) Saudi Arabia; (3) Afghanistan; (4) Iraq; (5) Somalia; (6) Maldives; (7) Mali; (8) Iran; (9) Yemen, and (10) Eritrea.
Syria, which is torn by civil war as a result of an Arab Spring-like conflict fueled by militant Muslims, jumped from 36th to 11th this year.
North Korea far outranked the other persecutors on the list with a score of 87 points, making it the only country to achieve “absolute persecution,” which is reserved for scores of 86 to 100. Saudi Arabia was second with 75.
Christian persecution in North Korea, which practices Communism and the cult-like worship of the ruling Kim family, has been “slightly worse” since Kim Jong Eun succeeded his late father in December 2011, Boyd-MacMillan reported.
Kim sent about 100 assassins into China to kill people who were evangelizing North Korean refugees, he said.
“The worship cult is basically still going strong,” Boyd-MacMillan said.
The North Koreans continue to imprison from 50,000 to 70,000 followers of Christ in Auschwitz-like labor camps, but Christians in the country number from 200,000 to 400,000, according to Open Doors. Iran, ranked eighth, has an estimated 450,000 Christians despite the country’s militant Islamic regime, reported Open Doors, which serves the persecuted church.
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