Persecution of Christians reached historic levels in 2014. Will 2015 be worse?

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Open Doors USA’s 2015 “World Watch List.” Photo courtesy of Open Doors

Open Doors USA’s 2015 “World Watch List.” Photo courtesy of Open Doors

(RNS) From imprisonment to torture to beheadings, more Christians worldwide live in fear for their lives than at any time in the modern era.

That’s the message from Open Doors USA, which released its annual World Watch List on Wednesday (Jan. 7). Christian persecution reached historic levels in 2014, with approximately 100 million Christians around the world facing possible dire consequences for merely practicing their religion, according to the report. If current trends persist, many believe 2015 could be even worse.

“In regions where Christians are being persecuted as central targets, the trends and issues we track are expanding,” said David Curry, president of Open Doors, a nonprofit that aids persecuted Christians in the most oppressive countries and ranks nations based on the severity of persecution.

North Korea tops Open Doors’ list as the worst oppressor of Christians for the 13th consecutive year, but the list is dominated by African and Middle Eastern nations. Iraq, which experienced the mass displacement of Christians from its northern region, ranked third. Syria was listed fourth, due to the reign of ISIS in that war-torn region. Nigeria ranked 10th, due in part to the more than 1,000 Christians murdered or kidnapped by terrorist groups such as Boko Haram. Also included in the top 10 are Somalia, Afghanistan, Sudan, Iran, Pakistan and Eritrea.

David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors USA. Photo courtesy of Open Doors

David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors USA. Photo courtesy of Open Doors

Even though some Christian-majority nations are experiencing unprecedented levels of discrimination and oppression, Curry said Muslim extremists are the primary drivers of Christian persecution worldwide. This is the case in 40 of the 50 nations on this year’s list.

Todd Nettleton, a spokesman for Voice of the Martyrs, a global ministry serving persecuted Christians in oppressed nations, agreed with Curry that Muslim extremism is the main source of Christian oppression.

“Wherever there is growing Islamic radicalism, there is growing persecution of Christians,” he said. “Even where moderate Islamic states offer peace — and that is rare — they almost never have freedom to practice their faith and are often marked for death.”

Nina Shea, director of the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute, said Islamic extremism is not just rampant in rogue terror groups, but also in the governments of nations such as Saudi Arabia (No. 12 on the list) and Egypt (No. 23). This has foreign policy implications, which Shea said has contributed to a failure on the part of the Obama administration to address the calamity adequately.

Curry and Nettleton also expressed disappointment in the administration’s response but said they hope that the appointment of Rabbi David Saperstein as the State Department’s ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom might signal a more aggressive approach. Conservatives criticized Obama for not filling the position sooner, and Saperstein’s critics say the rabbi’s liberal background may not bode well for his willingness to address global persecution aggressively.

Regardless, Open Doors leaders say something must be done to address the mounting persecution. The situation is reaching crisis levels: Christianity faces possible extinction in the Middle East and persecution is growing at alarming rates in Asia and Africa. Curry concluded:

“The 2015 Watch List is a wake-up call to Western countries to protect religious freedoms around the world.”

YS/MG END MERRITT

Persecution of Christians reached record high in 2014. Will 2015 be worse?

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Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/e11world/5225510147/in/photolist-hrQdn-3KqomY-pq2Z7a-pQYgAw-oWh4A9-pQY877-pTcR2C-pSTWeB-pT4TF4-pT4KL6-pAGErZ-pAGqSK-pSTGNt-eNLuA-FH44r-8XL77x-6ZHNB-eNMWW-MUVGx-8XL6Jg-8XPaNf-8XPa5o-8XP9J9-8XPaCo-8XL728-8XL7iD-8XPaS5-8XL6cx-8XPaQu-8XP9wQ-8XPaFN-8XL66e-8XP9NN-8XPaXw-8XL6Wk-8XL6Dt-8XPaE7-8XL6qH-8XP9Ys-8XPaww-8XL6Ui-8XL6ii-8XPa77-8XPaaj-8XL6YP-8XP9Ab-8XPaJE-8XL6pg-8XL7qH-8XL6s8

Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/e11world/5225510147/in/photolist-hrQdn-3KqomY-pq2Z7a-pQYgAw-oWh4A9-pQY877-pTcR2C-pSTWeB-pT4TF4-pT4KL6-pAGErZ-pAGqSK-pSTGNt-eNLuA-FH44r-8XL77x-6ZHNB-eNMWW-MUVGx-8XL6Jg-8XPaNf-8XPa5o-8XP9J9-8XPaCo-8XL728-8XL7iD-8XPaS5-8XL6cx-8XPaQu-8XP9wQ-8XPaFN-8XL66e-8XP9NN-8XPaXw-8XL6Wk-8XL6Dt-8XPaE7-8XL6qH-8XP9Ys-8XPaww-8XL6Ui-8XL6ii-8XPa77-8XPaaj-8XL6YP-8XP9Ab-8XPaJE-8XL6pg-8XL7qH-8XL6s8

From imprisonment to torture to beheadings, more Christians worldwide live in fear for their lives than at any time in the modern era.

That’s the message from Open Doors USA, which released its annual World Watch List on Wednesday (Jan. 7). Christian persecution reached historic levels in 2014, with approximately 100 million Christians around the world facing possible dire consequences for merely practicing their religion, according to the report. If current trends persist, many believe 2015 could be even worse.

“In regions where Christians are being persecuted as central targets, the trends and issues we track are expanding,” said David Curry, president of Open Doors, a nonprofit that aids persecuted Christians in the most oppressive countries and ranks nations based on the severity of persecution.

Open Doors' 2015 "World Watch List" outlines the 50 nations where persecution of Christians is most severe - Photo courtesy: Open Doors USA

Open Doors’ 2015 “World Watch List” outlines the 50 nations where persecution of Christians is most severe – Photo courtesy: Open Doors USA

North Korea tops Open Doors’ list as the worst oppressor of Christians for the 13th consecutive year, but the list is dominated by African and Middle Eastern nations. Iraq, which experienced the mass displacement of Christians from its northern region, ranked third. Syria was listed fourth, due to the reign of ISIS in that war-torn region. Nigeria ranked 10th, due in part to the more than 1,000 Christians murdered or kidnapped by terrorist groups such as Boko Haram. Also included in the top 10 are Somalia, Afghanistan, Sudan, Iran, Pakistan and Eritrea.

Even though some Christian-majority nations are experiencing unprecedented levels of discrimination and oppression, Curry said Muslim extremists are the primary drivers of Christian persecution worldwide. This is the case in 40 of the 50 nations on this year’s list.

Todd Nettleton, a spokesman for Voice of the Martyrs, a global ministry serving persecuted Christians in oppressed nations, agreed with Curry that Muslim extremism is the main source of Christian oppression.

“Wherever there is growing Islamic radicalism, there is growing persecution of Christians,” he said. “Even where moderate Islamic states offer peace — and that is rare — they almost never have freedom to practice their faith and are often marked for death.”

Nina Shea, director of the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute, said Islamic extremism is not just rampant in rogue terror groups, but also in the governments of nations such as Saudi Arabia (No. 12 on the list) and Egypt (No. 23). This has foreign policy implications, which Shea said has contributed to a failure on the part of the Obama administration to address the calamity adequately.

Curry and Nettleton also expressed disappointment in the administration’s response but said they hope that the appointment of Rabbi David Saperstein as the State Department’s ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom might signal a more aggressive approach. Conservatives criticized Obama for not filling the position sooner, and Saperstein’s critics say the rabbi’s liberal background may not bode well for his willingness to address global persecution aggressively.

Regardless, Open Doors leaders say something must be done to address the mounting persecution. The situation is reaching crisis levels: Christianity faces possible extinction in the Middle East and persecution is growing at alarming rates in Asia and Africa. Curry concluded:

“The 2015 Watch List is a wake-up call to Western countries to protect religious freedoms around the world.”

  • Billysees

    This may be a reason why the persecution of Christians will never end —

    You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven…..Matthew 5:14-16

    People see the good deeds but don’t know what makes them happen. Maybe jealousy is at work here.

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  • Larry

    Incredibly (to the surprise of Religion Right leaders, I’m sure), the United States didn’t make the cut:

    I don’t think the Open Doors people realize that American Christians have it really rough.

    Sometimes, Christian pharmacists are given money and told to fill a birth control prescription (the horror!)… and sometimes, Christian photographers are given money to take wedding pictures for gay couples (Nooooooo!)… and sometimes, Christian bakers are given money to make a cake for a same-sex wedding (Won’t someone think of the children?!)…

    If you listen to right-wing demagogues, anyway, you’d think American evangelicals have it the worst. My sarcasm aside, Christians are doing just fine in the U.S. This is real persecution we’re talking about
    -Hemant Metha
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2015/01/08/u-s-strangely-missing-from-map-of-top-50-countries-where-christians-face-the-greatest-persecution/#ixzz3OGhBhna2

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  • Dana

    Well Larry, while it is true that we in the United States are not yet experiencing real life threatening persecution as many in other parts of the world have and are, one should stop and think about what we do see rising up even here in “the land of the free”! In most of the life times of those reading this news page, the surge in anti-Christian talk, events, laws, and judgments against Christians would never have been considered possible just a few years ago! We have been protected by the gracious hand of God for many generations because we were the shining city on a hill to the world, we were free to worship God according to our conscience while our churches sent the gospel out all over the world! But, the luster has worn off our city because of our sins. We came to believe the lies designed to destroy our faith in a Holy God who came to save us, and His purpose for our lives, believing instead we are the masters of our own destiny and we don’t need anyone to save us, we are plunging eyes wide open into the abyss of destruction unable to read the proverbial hand writing on the wall, that the hand of God’s favor is being withdrawn, and like in other parts of our world, persecution of those true believers will become great and without mercy … unless we repent! God bring revival to your people…

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  • Larry Linn

    What about the Christian refugees from Latin America? Are they just considered to be illegal immigrants?

  • Larry Linn

    What about all of the Christian refugees from Latin America? Are they just considered to be illegal immigrants?