Communist North Korea is once against the world’s worst persecutor of Christians, but Islamic oppression is by far the greatest threat to believers around the globe according to the 2019 World Watch List from Open Doors USA.
The list of 50 nations also shows persecution sharply on the rise in prominent places like India, China, and Russia.
While persecution is on the rise in many parts of the world, Open Doors USA President and CEO Dr. David Curry says North Korea is still home of the worst brutality.
“If people know you’re a Christian, you’ll be arrested, taken to a labor camp and (you’ll) probably die there. You’re not allowed to have a bible. They’re illegal. They consider Christians to be the number one enemy of the state,” said Curry.
Eight Islamic nations follow North Korea on the list – Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, Pakistan, Sudan, Eritrea, Yemen, and Iran – with Afghanistan just a whisker behind North Korea for the worst nation to live as Christians. India is now up to the 10th spot.
Curry says the growing strength of the Taliban makes life very difficult for believers in Afghanistan.
“There’s an underground church there but it’s very difficult for them to function,” said Curry. “They don’t have the prison systems that North Korea does. It’s more of a vigilante kind of a justice. If they find out you are a Christian, you’ll be expelled from the family. You could be beaten, killed, or raped,” said Curry.
Thirty-four of the fifty nations listed due to “Islamic oppression.” So why do those government feel threatened by their Christian minorities?
“The ideology is what it’s all about for them. They see Christians as apostates, as infidels. These are radical Islamic folks who have an agenda to impose their world view on everybody, including the West if they could,” said Curry.
And why is India so high on the list? Curry says the country has changed drastically in just a few years.
“The government has a radical Hindu agenda. They’re attacking Christians and there are hundreds of cases against Christians and churches in that country. They are good citizens, but it runs contrary to the BJP party’s nationalist Hindu agenda where they say you’re not an Indian unless you’re Hindu,” said Curry, noting that the government is even harassing Mother Teresa’s organization helping the poorest of the poor.
He believes a strong stand by American business leaders could make a big difference.
“I would love to see the business community in America – Amazon, Google, all these people that want to get access to that big population – look at their corporate charters. What does it mean that we’re doing so much business in India when they have such a horrible human rights pattern here over the last six years,” said Curry.
Two other very prominent nations rocketed up the list in 2019. China surged 16 spots to 27th, while Russia was off the list and is now at 41st. Curry says Russia is still plagued by Islamic violence in the Caucuses but he is also worried about new religious expression rules being implemented by the government.
He considers China the big story of this year’s list, noting President Xi Jinping’s efforts to consolidate more and more power in the state. He says the Communist Party is infiltrating the churches because the regime is fearful of the 100 million Christians there. Surveillance cameras are everywhere to monitor services and those refusing the cameras are shut down. So are any pastors refusing to follow the demands for how churches ought to function..
Listen to the full podcast to hear much more about the World Watch List. Dr. Curry explains why Christian women in these countries are the most vulnerable people in the world, where there is a major bright spot in the middle of the Islamic world, and what he hopes people do with this information. Dr. Curry also talks about the perseverance of believers in the midst of persecution and how churches in many of these nations continue to grow.