Open Doors USA unveiled the World Watch List Wednesday, revealing the 50 nations around the world presenting the worst persecution for Christians and noting that Islamic extremism is responsible for much of the repression and Christian women in these countries are at the greatest risk.

“Christian women are the most vulnerable population in the world.  We can show, with data, so many sexual assaults and so many forced marriages,” said Open Doors USA President and CEO Dr. David Curry.

“We had a 14-year-old girl walking to school in northern Nigeria kidnapped, sold by tribal Sharia law for $160.  Her parents had no legal recourse.  This is happening over and over again, 2,260 cases that we can document,” said Curry.

Of the 50 nations on the list, 36 are there because of repression in Islamic nations, including nine of the worst ten nations.  Atheistic North Korea is still worst, but the next nine – Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, Pakistan, Eritrea, Libya, Iraq, Yemen, and Iran – are all Islamic.

Afghanistan not only shot up to the second spot on the list, but fell just short of North Korea, which has topped the list for years.  Curry says the re-emergence of the Taliban is a big reason for the negative surge.

“The Taliban has extended their management of a larger portion of the country so they control somewhere around 47 percent of Afghanistan now.  So in these tribal regions run by the Taliban there are very extremist views.  You just have a very difficult position for anybody who has any alternate views.

“Under Sharia Law, what people need to understand is that the Taliban and Islamic extremists see themselves as judge, jury, and executioner.  So they will just execute somebody who commits their life to faith as a Christian.  That just makes it exceptionally difficult,” said Curry.

However, the eleventh worst persecutor of Christians is not an Islamic state but a nationalistic Hindu state in India, which has rocketed up the list in recent years.

“Prime Minister Modi and his entire party, the BJP party, has committed to a one religion policy, a nationalistic push that says if you’re not Hindu then you’re not an Indian.  They’re forcing everyone by 2025 to be a Hindu,” said Curry.

He says the human rights abuses committed in the advancement of this policy are shocking, including the persecution of a nun who insisted in helping people in the name of Jesus.

“They raped her.  They drugged her.  They left her unconscious tied to a bed.  She wasn’t discovered until she failed to show up for prayer.  And what did the police and the local authorities do?  They destroyed evidence and they let the attackers go.  There’s no justice for Christians in India right now,” said Curry, who had even more disturbing numbers about the world’s most populous democracy.

“There were 635 Christians held in prison without trial in India.  It’s very difficult in India right now.  It’s an extremism, a nationalism,” said Curry.

The name radical nationalism is wreaking havoc in neighboring Nepal as well.  Nepal was not on the list in 2017 but now sits at twenty-fifth on the list.

The scores and rankings on the World Watch List incorporate several criteria, including government repression of religious freedom and state-sanctioned violence against those who do not submit to the wishes of the state.  Each nation listed comes with a report and a fact sheet describing the persecution taking place in that country.

Curry says some nations are improving, including Vietnam and Tanzania, who are slowly expanding religious freedom, but much of the world is seeing greater persecution.

Syria has dropped out of the worst ten persecutors and the immediate instinct is to credit the military losses by ISIS.  However, Curry says that’s not the case and the drop isn’t even good news.

“There is some good news in the list.  Unfortunately, that’s not one of them.  Here’s the factor in Syria dropping.  A lot of Christians have left.  ISIS is rolling back but don’t be deceived , their ideology of hate is alive,” said Curry.

Other points of concern include Turkey, now up to 31st on the list, as the government quashes religious freedom in its tightening grip on power.  Only two nations in the western hemisphere made the list – Mexico and Colombia.  Curry says the threat posed to Christians by drug cartels and other organized crime groups stifles religious freedom.

Curry says he wants governments and fellow Christians to take proactive steps in response to this report.

“We want the government of the United States and western countries to make this part of their diplomacy, part of their commerce strategy.  There are countries on the list that we do billion, nay trillions of business with – India, Saudi Arabia.  You just go down the list and yet they don’t have any freedom for religious minorities,” said Curry.

As for the churches, Curry says his request is simple.

“We need to let our voice be heard.  Share these stories.  Share it online.  Share it on social media.  Talk about it.  Every church, every Sunday should be praying for one of these countries and one of these stories – an American pastor held in Turkey, the nun attacked in India, the 14-year-old girl sold into marriage against her will.

“Pray for these people.  Let’s not let it drop off of our consciousness,” said Curry.