6th January, 2010
North Korea has topped the annual list of nations where the worst persecution of Christians occurs for the eighth consecutive year.
The 2010 list, published by mission organisation Open Doors this week, lists Iran as the second worst nation for the persecution of Christians followed by Saudi Arabia, Somalia, and the Maldives. Afghanistan, Yemen, Mauritania, Laos and Uzbekistan round out the top 10.
“There is no other country in the world where Christians are persecuted in such a horrible and systematic manner..
Carl Moeller, president of Open Doors USA, speaking on North Korea.
Addressing North Korea’s number one ranking, Carl Moeller, president and chief executive of Open Doors USA, says the listing of North Korea as number one was “certainly not a shock”.
“There is no other country in the world where Christians are persecuted in such a horrible and systematic manner...Three generations of a family are often thrown into prison when one member is incarcerated.”
The annual report which accompanies the list describes the situation for Christians in North Korea as “extremely harsh” despite the fact that the current regime - led by the reclusive Kim Jong Il - is “slowly and steadily” losing its iron control on the society. It says that Christians have been specifically targeted in campaigns which has seen them arrested, tortured and killed.
Open Doors quotes a veteran North Korean watcher, who the group says can’t be identified due to security reasons, as saying that there was evidence in 2009 that arrested Christians had been used “as guinea pigs to test chemical and biological weapons”.
The organisation estimates that there are 200,000 North Koreans currently in political prisons in the country, including between 40,000 and 60,000 Christians.
Despite such inhuman circumstances, however, the report says the Christianity in the country is growing as are the chances for people to hear the Gospel, particularly for those living in cities close to the Chinese border.
Iran, previously at number three, was elevated to number two on the list thanks to the “wave of arrests” which started in 1998 and has since escalated with at least 85 Christians arrested in 2009, most of whom were mistreated in prison.
But the report did note that there had been an absence of reports of Christians been killed for their faith, evidence for which it said was present during the previous year.
While other countries named in the top 10 - such as Saudi Arabia and Somalia - have been high on the list in years past, one newcomer is the north African nation of Mauritania, which jumped 10 spots to the number eight position.
The report ascribes the jump to the deteriorating situation in the north African country which the murder of a Christian aid worker in June last year, the arrest and torture of 35 Mauritanian Christians in July and the arrest of a 150 sub-Saharan Christians the following month due them holding their own unauthorised church meeting.
According to the document, other nations where the situation for Christians deteriorated in 2009 included Vietnam, Azerbaijan, Tajikstan, Turkey, Tunisia and Kyrgyzstan.
The only country to move out of the top 10 was the small east African nation of Eritrea, which moved from ninth to 11th. Other countries where fewer reports of persecution were recorded in 2009 compared with 2008 included Algeria, India, Cuba, Jordan, Sri Lanka and Indonesia - which moved from number 41 in 2008 to number 48 in 2009 due to a lack of reports of killings or kidnappings of Christians and drops in the number of churches forced to close and the number of Christians physically harassed.
The list, first published in 1991, is compiled from a questionnaire sent to Open Doors co-workers, key church leaders and “recognised experts” in 70 countries. The 53 questions examine everything from the degree of legal restriction on Christians to state attitudes, the freedom of the church to organise itself and incidents of persecution themselves - from church burnings and anti-Christian riots to the torture, imprisonment and killing of Christians.
According to Open Doors, more than 200 million Christians continue to face persecution around the world.