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Open Doors International
NK Christians praying.jpg
Open Doors International
World News

Revealed: 10 worst countries to live as a Christian

by Heather Preston

The religious freedom charity OpenDoors released its 2020 World Watch List of the worst countries for Christian persecution on Wednesday.

The annual report ranks the 50 countries where Christians suffer the most extreme levels of oppression due to their faith, including false imprisonment and captivity, forced church closures and a range of violent attacks and killings.

Here are the top 10:

1. North Korea

2: Afghanistan

3.  Somalia

4: Libya

5: Pakistan

6. Eritrea

7. Sudan

8. Yemen

9. Iran

10. India

North Korea remains the most dangerous place to live as a Christian, and has been at the top of the World Watch List since its records began in 2002. 

Here Christians are considered enemies of the state for acknowledging a higher authority than the country's leader Kim Jong Un and must keep their faith completely secret in order to avoid captivity. 

Up to 70,000 are imprisoned in labour camps and subjected to torture and slavery simply for choosing to follow Jesus.

As well as expressing continued concern for Christians in North Korea, Open Doors has drawn attention to the plight of believers in Pakistan. 

In 2019, Asia Bibi, a Christian mother sentenced to death for blasphemy there was acquitted and reunited with her family, after spending nine years on death row. Despite this, Christians continue to receive death sentences under the country's notorious blasphemy laws, with a Pakistani court sentencing two brothers, Qaisar and Amoon Ayub, to death for allegedly posting 'disrespectful material' online. 

Eritrea has been in the top ten since 2015 and has seen Christians imprisoned, tortured and harassed on a large scale in direct violation with international rights of freedom of religion or belief. Police regularly raid the homes of Christians from unregistered church denominations and those arrested are often only released on the condition that they renounce their faith. In 2020, hundreds of members of unregistered churches remain in prison while some have been held captive for more than a decade.

Other key findings raised by the charity include the growth of surveillance of religious leaders in China with the introduction of facial recognition cameras to monitor congregations.
 
The rise of Islamic extremism has also been highlighted as a strong contributing factor to the rise in Christian persecution particularly in Western Africa, where poverty and instability leave many vulnerable to attack and displacement without the protection of local authorities.

Open Doors estimates that 260 million Christians experience high or extreme levels of persecution in the top 50 countries, up from 245 million in 2019. 

There are at least a further 50 million believers facing persecution in 23 countries that haven't made it into the top 50.

A report based on Open Door's findings was launched in the House of Commons on Wednesday to outline how faith communities and organisations can provide vital and sustainable support to vulnerable Christians. The charity is calling on the government to recognise religious vulnerability and provide adequate funding to support international humanitarian efforts.

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