SANTA ANA, Calif. (Jan. 4, 2012) – The Open Doors 2012 World Watch List has a familiar look to it. North Korea tops the list for the 10th straight time as the country where Christians face the most severe persecution, while Islamic-majority countries represent nine of the top 10 and 38 of the 50 countries on the annual ranking.
Afghanistan (2), Saudi Arabia (3), Somalia (4), Iran (5) and the Maldives (6) form a bloc where indigenous Christians have almost no freedom to openly worship. For the first time Pakistan (10) entered the top 10, after a tumultuous year during which the nation’s highest-ranking Christian politician, Cabinet Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, was assassinated for his attempts to change the blasphemy law.
The rest of the top 10 is composed of Uzbekistan (7), Yemen (8) and Iraq (9). Laos was the lone country to drop from the top 10 list, falling to No. 12 from No. 10.
There are significant moves on the World Watch List, including Sudan moving up 19 spots to No. 16 – the biggest leap of any country from 2011. Nigeria jumped 10 spots to No. 13. Egypt, racked by violent protests and upheaval during the Arab Spring, rose four positions to No. 15. Increased Islamic extremism triggered the upward movement of Sudan, Nigeria and Egypt.
“Being a Muslim-background believer or ‘secret believer’ Christian in a Muslim-dominated country is a huge challenge. Christians often face persecution from extremists, the government, their community and even their own families,” said Moeller. “As the 2012 World Watch List reflects, the persecution of Christians in these Muslim countries continues to increase. While many thought the Arab Spring would bring increased freedom, including religious freedom for minorities, that certainly has not been the case so far.”
In July 2011 southern Sudan, which is mostly Christian, seceded to become an independent country, called South Sudan, leaving the Christians of North Sudan much more isolated under President Omar al-Bashir. In response to the loss of the south, al-Bashir vowed to make constitutional changes to make his country even more Islamic. On the ground the military has attacked Christian communities in battles over resources with many being killed.
Nigeria remains the country with the worst atrocities in terms of lives lost. More than 300 Christians were martyred last year in Nigeria, though the actual number is believed to be double or triple that number. The total is probably greater in North Korea, but impossible to confirm due to its isolation. Since 2009 the extreme Islamic group Boko Haram has destroyed more than 50 churches and killed 10 pastors in Nigeria.
Egyptian Christians experienced a disastrous start to 2011 when a bombing at the Coptic Orthodox Church of Saint Mark and Pope Peter in Alexandria killed 21 Christians on New Year’s Day. After the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak in February, hopes soared for new freedoms for all Egyptians. But on Oct. 9 the military turned on its own citizens in the Maspero massacre in Cairo, killing 27 Coptic Christian demonstrators. At the close of 2011, Islamist parties flourished in the November elections, prompting some to speak of an Arab Winter instead of an Arab Spring for Christians.
An estimated 100 million Christians worldwide suffer interrogation, arrest and even death for their faith in Christ, with millions more facing discrimination and alienation. Open Doors supports and strengthens believers in the world’s most difficult areas through Bible and Christian literature distribution, leadership training and assistance, Christian community development, prayer and presence ministry and advocacy on behalf of suffering believers. To partner with Open Doors USA, call toll free at 888-5-BIBLE-5 (888-524-2535) or go to our website at www.opendoorsusa.org.
Yet Muslims have built a lucrative industry based on so-called Islamophobia.
If possible, it’s worse than last year, Islamic Countries Dominate Open Doors 2011 World Watch List.