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08 January 2013

Open Doors says persecution of Christians on increase

Open Doors says persecution of Christians on increase

The persecution of Christians in Africa has increased dramatically in 2012. This is evident from the new Open Doors World Watch List ranking of the top 50 countries of the world where Christians are persecuted, published today.

As it has done every year since the list was first published 11 years ago, North Korea occupies top spot, and remains the country where it is most difficult to be a Christian. The mere possession of a Bible in North Korea is often enough reason for a Christian to be executed or sent to a prison camp with several generations of their family.

The top ten places on the World Watch List include eight countries - Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Maldives, Mali, Iran and Yemen - where Islamic extremism poses the largest threat for Christians. Worldwide, the World Watch List reports an overall increase in the persecution of Christians in 2012.

In Africa extremist expressions of Islam have rapidly gained influence across the continent. Mali typifies this trend. Ranked number seven on the new list, violence in Mali escalated after a coup in March. Eddie Lyle, CEO of Open Doors UK and Ireland, said: "Mali used to be a model country. The situation in the north was tense, but Christians and even missionaries could be active. Following the coup Christians have effectively become 'persona non grata' and can no longer exist in northern states of the country."

However, in contrast to many areas of the world where persecution against Christians is on the increase, there are signs in China that in some government circles, Christians are now being accommodated. The government still considers the church to be a political movement and wishes to be informed of all Christian activity. However, house searches, arrests and the widescale confiscation of Bibles and Christian books rarely occurs. Despite this, more than a 100 Chinese Christians are still in prison on account of their faith.

Ron Boyd-MacMillan, Open Doors chief strategy officer, summarised the significant trends highlighted by the World Watch List research. "Islamism has risen in every country that experienced the Arab Spring. This has resulted in massively increased pressure on large parts of the church in the Middle East and North Africa.

"The trends are not uniformly gloomy however. In the Far East, with the exception of North Korea, the Communist states in Laos, Vietnam and China all marginally improved their treatment of Christians."