North Korea tops the list of the 50 countries where it is most dangerous to be a Christian, according to a report from a watchdog group that monitors religious freedom.
Open Doors, which assists Christians in areas of the world where persecution is rampant, publishes the World Watch List, an annual report on the global persecution of Christians. The report, which comes out at the beginning of each year, ranks the top 50 countries where Christians are persecuted for their faith. The list uses data from Open Doors field workers and external experts to quantify and analyze persecution worldwide.
Countries are ranked by the severity of persecution of Christians, calculated by analyzing the level of violent persecution plus the pressure experienced in five spheres of life.
This year, the group has found a sharp increase in persecution of Christians in the world’s two most populous countries. For the first time since the start of the World Watch List, India has entered the top 10. And China jumped 16 spots, from 43 to 27.
The source of the persecution in India is Hindu nationalist extremists, Open Door says. “Since the current ruling party took power in 2014, attacks have increased, and Hindu radicals believe they can attack Christians with no consequences,” according to the report. “The view of the nationalists is that to be Indian is to be Hindu, so any other faith— including Christianity—is viewed as non-Indian. Additionally, in some regions of the country, converts to Christianity from Hinduism experience extreme persecution, discrimination and violence.
Meanwhile, China, which historically has been suspicious of Christianity at best, became even more hostile over the past year as President Xi Jinping has consolidated his power.
“The management of religious affairs lies with the Communist Party now, not just with government, and Christians are feeling this strongly,” Open Doors reports. “Crackdowns against Christians happen country-wide and in both state-approved and non-registered churches. The youth are increasingly being removed from church life, worship is monitored via CCTV and spies, and teachers and medical workers are told they are not allowed to have any religious affiliation.”
In North Korea, where there are about 300,000 Christians out of a total population of 25.6 million, Christians are seen as “hostiles to be eradicated,” the report says. “There was hope that new diplomatic efforts in 2018— including the 2018 Winter Olympics—would mean a lessening of pressure and violence against Christians, but so far that has not been the case. Kim Jong-un has maintained tight control over the populace, and dissent or worshiping anything else is not tolerated.”
After North Korea, the other nations on the top 10 list are Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, Pakistan, Sudan, Eritrea, Yemen, Iran and India.