Santa Ana, California — The persecution watch group Open Doors has released its 2013 World Watch List of the 50 countries where Christians are most persecuted, indicating a surge of persecution throughout the continent of Africa and continued hostility throughout the Middle East.
Open Doors has created the list for a number of years in order to make Christians and others aware of the difficulties that believers face around the world. This year, while the top three persecutors remained the same as 2011, a number of African nations were added to the list that had not been cited heretofore, and others that were in the top 50 in years past moved up significantly.
Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and Niger were new entries to the list due to the pervasiveness of Islam throughout the continent. The nation of Nigeria was continuously in the news throughout 2012 as churches had been bombed, houses set on fire and Christians were slain and threatened by the Islamic group Boko Harem, which reportedly seeks to turn Nigeria into a Muslim country run by Sharia law.
The country of Ethiopia ascended from number 38 to number 15, and Mali, which had never been on the list in years past, was marked as the 7th most dangerous place to live as a Christian.
“Mali used to be a model country,” said Open Doors spokesman Jerry Dykstra. “The situation in the north used to be a bit tense, but Christians and even missionaries could be active. Currently the situation in northern Mali is somewhat similar to Saudi Arabia. Christians are simply no longer allowed to be there.”
Eritrea and Libya were also among the African countries that moved up the World Watch list.
“We do not necessarily distinguish one overall plan from one source in the whole of Africa. However, we do see that radical Islamic groups are patiently waiting for the right time to show their power,” Dykstra stated. “Apart from the pattern of violent attacks, we see that radical Muslims are infiltrating into politics, business and the judicial power, such as introducing Sharia family courts. On a number of occasions, Muslims were ready to step into a power vacuum.”
The top ten nations that persecute Christians the most severely — most of which were not African nations, but rather Middle Eastern with the exception of the first — were North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Maldives, Mali, Iran and Yemen. In North Korea, Christians can be arrested for a number of reasons, including for possessing a Bible, and placed into prison camps.
“Nothing much has changed under new North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un,” Dykstra noted. “In fact, persecution of Christians has increased. Reportedly one labor camp alone could hold up to 6,000 Christians.”
While the nation of Egypt was frequently in the news last year, it moved down the list from 15 t0 25 in comparison to the hostility against Christians that has been taking place in other countries. Open Doors does note, however, that Egypt has not seen any improvement since the year before, and in fact, concerns are mounting over the Muslim Brotherhood being in power.
Open Doors says that Christians are being persecuted in at least 60 countries worldwide, even though their list only displays the 50 most dangerous places to live as a believer.