Recently, Open Doors USA, a persecution watchdog, released its 2019 World Watch List. The infamous list revealed the 50 most dangerous countries around the globe to be a Christian. For the 18th year in a row, North Korea topped it.
During his tenure in the White House, President Donald J. Trump has met with several of the leaders whose nations were on the list including North Korea, China, Saudi Arabia, and Nigeria. The Trump administration has worked hard to protect the religious freedoms of people both in the United States and elsewhere. However, the United States government could do more. And, according to CBN News, that’s the driving force behind the list.
Unfortunately, the spread of radical Islam continues to threaten the wellbeing of believers worldwide. An Iraqi native, Father Daniel Alkhory, told CBN News, “Many Christians are being killed because of their faith.” Facing intense persecution from Al-Qaeda, Alkhory ministers to almost 200 families living in Iraq. When asked by CBN News why he remains in the country while other priests have left, he said, “I’m staying to stay with my people. So this is the only thing that is keeping me staying there and helping them because they need help now urgently. So if I am not going to be there who is going to help them?”
Alkhory’s homeland occupied the number 13 spot on the 2019 World Watch List. The top five nations included on the list were North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, and Pakistan. The President and CEO of Open Doors, David Curry, informed CBN News, “We believe now based on our research that there are over 245 million Christians who live in areas of extreme or high persecution – that’s a lot.” Curry noted that Christian persecution has skyrocketed over the past year in China. Open Doors’ president and CEO stated, “They moved up from #41 to #27 on the list. That’s a big jump. It’s a huge jump and it shows things are getting more difficult for China and it’s a big church so a lot of people are affected.”
Despite Trump’s talks with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, believers in the nation are still facing unimaginable persecution. Curry disclosed to CBN News, “I would love to see human rights be a part of the discussion when you are talking about nuclear arms because you can tell within 30, 60, 90 days if conditions have improved for Christians in the labor camps. Right now, there are over 60,000 Christians in labor camps in North Korea. A lot of people don’t know that.”
According to Open Doors, believers in North Korea “are seen as hostile elements in society that must be eradicated.” Allegedly, authorities in the country are increasing incentives for those who expose a Christian in their communities. When believers are discovered, they may either be murdered on the spot or deported to labor camps. Unbelievably, the harsh regime reportedly punishes the family members of Christians to the fourth generation. Open Doors revealed that communal worship doesn’t exist in North Korea. But, an estimated 300,000 Christians are defying their unjust government and following Jesus Christ.
Afghanistan was listed a close second behind North Korea on the 2019 World Watch List. The country doesn’t allow any other faith except Islam to exist. Leaving Islam is seen as “tantamount to treason.” The act is viewed “as a betrayal of family, tribe and country.” Besides being killed for converting to Christianity, believers in Afghanistan are often considered insane. Open Doors reported that “some may end up in a psychiatric hospital and have their homes destroyed.”
Vice President Mike Pence vowed the White House will continue to champion the rights of believers. He said, “Protecting and promoting religious freedom is a foreign policy priority of this administration.”
Open Doors’ enduring hope is that governments, human rights organizations, and other groups will become aware of the plight of Christians worldwide and help. For instance, after meeting with Christian leaders to create a safe environment for believers to worship, Bahrain dropped off the persecution watchdog’s list this year. Curry said the nation served as a role model in the hostile Middle East.
Pray for Christians all over the world who are facing incredible persecution due to their faith.
~ 1776 Christian