By Aaron Earls
For the 16th consecutive year, North Korea tops the list of the most oppressive nations toward Christians.
Open Doors, a Christian persecution awareness ministry, published its annual World Watch List, highlighting the plight of Christians around the world who are arrested, harassed, tortured, and killed for their faith.
The list uses data from Open Doors field workers and independent experts to track Christian persecution and then measures the degree of freedom Christians have to live out their faith in five spheres of life—private, family, community, national, and church—plus a sixth sphere measuring the degree of violence.
Not all of the persecution is state-driven. In many places, terrorist organizations such as ISIS and other non-governmental groups carry out the most threats and attacks on Christians.
Once that data is collected, Open Doors converts it into points on a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 being the worst possible score. Countries are ranked by score, and the 50 worst make the list. The International Institute of Religious Freedom independently audits the World Watch List.
Open Doors found North Korea remaining the worst nation for Christians, with a score of 92. According to the ministry, worship of the ruling Kim family is mandated for all citizens in the totalitarian communist state. Anyone, including Christians, who does not comply faces severe persecution.
Here are the 10 worst nations with their scores.
- North Korea: 92
- Somalia: 91
- Afghanistan: 89
- Pakistan: 88
- Sudan: 87
- Syria: 86
- Iraq: 86
- Iran: 85
- Yemen: 85
- Eritrea: 82
Most countries on the list are in the Middle East, Africa, and central and southeast Asia. Only two nations from the Americas made the list: Mexico at 41 and Colombia at 50.
In Mexico, those who convert from indigenous traditional beliefs often face pressure. Organized crime also targets Christians who seek to bring about social transformation and threaten drug cartels or other illegal activities.
Colombia has religious freedom guaranteed by law, but large areas of the country are under the control of crime lords and paramilitary groups, who often persecute Christians.
AARON EARLS (Aaron.Earls@Lifeway.com) is online editor of Facts & Trends.