SANTA ANA, Calif. — A watchdog organization that releases a report each year on the global persecution of Christians states that 2015 marked “unprecedented” levels of persecution on every continent, fulfilling its prediction from it previous report that matters would get worse.
“The levels of exclusion, discrimination and violence against Christians is unprecedented, spreading and intensifying,” David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors USA, said in a press release on Wednesday. “Christians, longing to stay in their home countries, are being forced to flee for their lives and for their children’s lives.”
The group unveiled its annual World Watch List on Wednesday, which marks the 50 most dangerous places to live as a Christian. It noted that in 2015, over 7,000 Christians were killed for their faith, up from nearly 3,000 the year prior, and approximately 2,400 churches were attacked or damaged, a figure that doubled from 2014.
For the 14th consecutive year, North Korea ranked the most difficult place to live as a Christian.
“Christianity is not only seen as ‘opium for the people’ as is normal for all communist states; it is also seen as deeply Western and despicable,” Open Doors USA outlined in its report. “Christians try to hide their faith as far as possible to avoid arrest and being sent to a labor camp. Thus, being Christian has to be a well-protected secret, even within families, and most parents refrain from introducing their children to the Christian faith in order to make sure that nothing slips their tongue when they are asked.”
The organization estimates that between 50,000 to 70,000 Christians are believed to be imprisoned in labor camps in the communist country.
Second to North Korea is Iraq, where Islamic violence dominated news headlines throughout 2015. Christians and other religious groups fled their homes by the thousands to escape the rule of the Islamic State.
“Christians are caught here in the crossfire of two different battles: one for a Kurdish autonomous country and one for a religious cleansing of Iraq by Islamic terrorist groups who wish to make the country purely Islamic,” Opens Doors USA explained. “On the other hand, amidst the current crisis, there are also sparks of hope as opportunities arise for churches to reach out to refugees.”
But it wasn’t only ISIS that posed a threat to Christians in 2015. The Islamic terror groups Boko Haram and al-Shabaab affected thousands living in African nations, such as Somalia, Sudan and Libya, which ranked seventh, eighth and tenth on the list respectively, as well as Nigeria, which ranked twelfth.
“Less well known are the tens of thousands of Christians leaving the 12 sharia states of northern Nigeria, where 27 million Christians remain second-class citizens, and now many thousands are fleeing the anti-Christian violence of Hausa-Fulani herdsmen in the country’s mid-section,” the organization outlined.
“Official estimates seem to be the tip of the iceberg,” it continued. “In Kenya, many Christians are fleeing from the Muslim-majority areas. Tens of thousands continue to brave desert and trafficking gangs to leave Eritrea, many ending up in Europe…”
Other countries ranking in the top ten worst places to live as a Christian include Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan and Iran.
Curry stated that the list should remind Christians to pray for their brothers and sisters worldwide and not forget their suffering.
“For Christians in the West, the Open Doors World Watch List serves as a clarion call to pray, advocate and remember their persecuted fellow Christians,” he said.