A watchdog organization that releases a report each year on the global persecution of Christians highlighted the “dramatic increase of persecution against Christians” in China in analyzing its new World Watch List, and lamented that if the Chinese government continues to escalate its mistreatment of Christians, it may become the “single largest violator of human rights worldwide.”
Open Doors USA released its “World Watch List” on Wednesday, which lists and ranks the 50 countries that are most hostile toward those who follow Jesus. While the top ten on the list remain largely unchanged — North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, Pakistan, Eritrea, Sudan, Yemen, Iran and India, this year’s focus is most notably the rise of persecution in China, where an estimated 97 million professing Christians reside.
“Policies enacted by the Communist Party in 2018 aimed to Sinicize the church have been enforced in more and more territories, resulting in the dramatic increase of persecution against Christians,” the organization said in a press release. “These regulations on religion are strictly applied, increasingly spread throughout the country, and seriously limit freedom.”
It noted that children under the age of 18 are prohibited from attending church at all, and even for adults, only the government-registered “Three Self Church” is allowed to operate. Those who refuse to sign up with the government and follow the Communist Party’s rules on how to conduct services risk closure and arrest.
“Based on the World Watch List data, China saw a steep increase in the number of attacks on churches within the last year. Whereas there were 1,847 attacks reported on churches worldwide in 2019, in 2020, this number is conservatively estimated to be at least 5,576 in China alone,” the organization outlined, although it is unclear whether the figure solely refers to unregistered house churches or also “Three Self” facilities.
“China wants to ‘Sinicize’ every religious ideology in the country — meaning, to make beliefs, including Christianity, fall in line with
their interpretation of communism,” the report further explained. “If churches or pastors are deemed to be too outspoken or political,
they can be monitored or even imprisoned.”
Open Doors USA also noted four current concerns affecting Christians worldwide, including that in the most populous nations on earth — such as China, Christians live under surveillance, and that Islamic militants are most notably spreading fear in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.
“In Burkina Faso, long-known for its religious tolerance, Christians say they are in a fight for survival,” it stated. “[The] Central African Republic is in constant upheaval partially due to the fighting of rebel Islamic militants, many of whom target Christians.”
“In Pakistan, Muslim radical groups often are given free rein by the government. Given the strength of these groups, no relaxation of Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws can be expected anytime soon,” the report outlined. “More than 20 Christians remain in prison either convicted of, or charged with, blasphemy.”
The World Watch List additionally advised that although the U.S. government had diplomatic relations with North Korea in 2018 and 2019, it did not change the country’s mistreatment of Christians. Worship must be in secret or the offender could be arrested, sent to a labor camp or killed. North Korea is still ranked #1 as the most dangerous place to live as a Christian.
“Christians remain one of the most persecuted religious groups in the world,” states Open Doors USA. “While persecution of Christians takes many forms, it is defined as any hostility experienced as a result of identification with Christ. Christians throughout the world continue to risk imprisonment, loss of home and assets, torture, rape, and even death as a result of their faith.”
As previously reported, Open Doors USA President David Curry lamented in an op-ed earlier this year that while “the worldwide Church is being murdered,” professing Christians in America too often show a lack of interest in the persecution of their brothers and sisters and are rather more enamored with entertainment and vain frivolity.
“Like most of the culture, the American church is more concerned about college entrance scandals and ‘Game of Thrones’ than persecution,” he said. “Inoculated by entertainment and self-absorption, they are completely detached from the experience of the global church.”