WASHINGTON, D.C. – The number of Christians killed for their faith doubled in 2013, according to a newly-released report on the international persecution of Christians.
Each year, Open Doors USA releases its World Watch List (WWL), in which it outlines the top 50 most dangerous places to live as a Christian. In this year’s report, the organization documents 2,123 known murders of Christians, compared to 1,201 deaths in 2012.
Syria had the most martyrs in 2013—1,213—with Nigeria accounting for 612 murdered Christians, 88 in Pakistan, 83 in Egypt, 16 in Angola, 15 in Niger, 11 in Iraq, 9 in CAR and 8 in Colombia.
North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Maldives, Pakistan, Iran and Yemen were listed as the ten countries most hostile to Christianity, with North Korea remaining at the top of the list for the 12th year.
In North Korea, an estimated 50,000-70,000 Christians are believed to be held in concentration camps, prisons or prison-like conditions, as even possessing a Bible can be cause for imprisonment or other punishment in the country. In Somalia, “Islamic leaders and government officials publicly reinforce that there is no room for Christians, and there is a strong drive to purge Christianity from [the country].”
The organization notes that persecution increased in countries labeled as “failed,” meaning “a weak state where social and political structures have collapsed to the point where government has little or no control.” Six of the top ten countries were considered “failed,” namely Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen.
Open Doors USA also outlines that the preponderance of persecution is occurring due to Islamic extremism, with the African Sahel belt being recognized as the most violent region in the world. In a number of Middle-Eastern and African countries, Christians are the minority.
“Often completely unaddressed in the West is the fact that Christians are the largest persecuted minority in the world,” said Open Doors USA President/CEO Dr. David Curry in a press release announcing the new report. “Countries on the WWL, such as North Korea, Saudi Arabia and throughout the Middle East and North Africa are targeting Christians: imprisoning, punishing, and even in some cases, murdering people who choose to express privately or publicly their Christian faith.”
“The 2014 WWL is a wake up call to Americans to become more aware of these atrocities and restrictions on religious freedom,” he added.
Dr. Ronald Boyd-MacMillan, director of Strategy and Research for Open Doors International, agreed. He stated that the numbers released in the report should awaken Christians to the plight of their brothers and sisters around the world.
“It is our intent through the WWL to encourage more people and organizations to carefully study the needs and stories of persecuted Christians, and as a result deepen the passion to pray for them,” Boyd-MacMillan stated. “The WWL is more than a set of numbers. It must also be seen as a human document, reflecting millions of sad but also amazing stories of strong faith.”
The organization is now urging Christians to take five minutes each day to pray for the persecuted church, and to encourage five friends to do likewise.
Photo: Andrew Dunn