SANTA ANA, Calif. – A watchdog organization that releases a report each year on the global persecution of Christians states that 2014 marked the highest level of hostility against Christians ever recorded, but believes matters will only get worse.
“While the year 2014 will go down in history for having the highest level of global persecution of Christians in the modern era, current conditions suggest the worst is yet to come,” Open Doors USA wrote in a press release on Wednesday.
The organization has released its annual “World Watch List,” which outlines the most dangerous places to live as a Christian. It notes that while there are a number of factors behind Christian persecution, “Islamic extremism is the main source of persecution in 40 of the 50 countries on the 2015 World Watch List.”
The exception to the statistic is North Korea, which was #1 on Open Doors’ list for the 13th consecutive year. There are estimated to be between 50,000 to 70,000 Christians imprisoned in labor camps in the communist country.
“The god-like worship of the leader, Kim Jong-Un, and his predecessors leaves little room for any other religions and Christians face unimaginable pressure in every sphere of life,” the group explains. “Meeting with other Christians is virtually impossible. Anyone discovered engaging in unauthorized religious activity is subject to arrest, arbitrary detention, disappearance, torture and/or execution.”
Also topping the list of most dangerous places to live as a Christian include Somalia, Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.
“The only type of Christianity in Somalia is Christian converts from a Muslim background. Persecution in the country is very severe,” Open Doors notes. “Islamic religious leaders maintain publicly that there is no room for Christianity, Christians and churches in Somalia. Islamic terrorists, in the form of al-Shabaab, as well as other radical Islamic groups, have intensified the persecution of Christians.”
Rounding out the top ten countries facing the most serious and prevalent persecution are Sudan, Iran, Pakistan, Eritrea and Nigeria. In Pakistan, an increasing number of women and children are said to be targets for rape and sexual assault.
“Pakistan’s Christians are caught in the crossfire between Islamic militant organizations and mobs that violently target Christians, and an Islamizing culture on the other hand that results in Christians being isolated from the rest of the population,” the organization explains. “The notorious blasphemy laws continue to have devastating consequences for minorities, including Christians. …Women and girls are experiencing violence every day; especially those from minority groups who are vulnerable and easy targets for rape, sexual abuse and kidnapping.”
The most extreme persecution was in the Middle East and in parts of Africa. In Iraq and Syria, Christians were among the hundreds of thousands who have fled the Islamic group ISIS in a mass exodus under threat of death, and in Nigeria, it is estimated that 10 people are killed each day by the Islamic group Boko Haram simply because of their faith.
“Even Christian-majority states are experiencing unprecedented levels of exclusion, discrimination and violence,” said David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors USA. “The 2015 World Watch List reveals that a staggering number of Christians are becoming victims of intolerance and violence because of their faith. They are being forced to be more secretive about their faith.”