Egyptian Christians shout as ambulances transport the bodies of victims killed in the bombing of Cairo's main Coptic cathedral to the funeral, in Cairo, Egypt, on Dec. 12, 2016. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-CHRISTIAN-PERSECUTION, originally published on Jan. 11, 2017.

Trump must aid persecuted Christians or his presidency will fail, says Open Doors

WASHINGTON (RNS) President-elect Donald Trump must help persecuted religious groups around the world or his administration will fail, said the leader of a nonprofit at the release Wednesday (Jan. 11) of its annual list of the most dangerous countries for Christians.

Open Doors USA CEO David Curry. Photo courtesy of Nathan Golden via DeMoss

Open Doors USA CEO David Curry. Photo courtesy of DeMoss/Nathan Golden

 This image is available for web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Religious liberty "is the central issue that they're going to have to deal with, whether you're looking at it through the lens of immigration, whether you're looking at it through the lens of terrorism," said David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors USA, which aids Christians threatened by hostile governments and extremist groups.

"We're hopeful that they take it seriously. If they don't I think we will see this administration fail," said Curry, who met with aides to Trump in October and on Tuesday.

Unveiling the list, Open Doors and its supporters in Congress pointed to Islamic extremists as the most deadly force around the world for Christians, followed by governments hostile to Christianity, led by North Korea. Curry said the plight of repressed Christians has deteriorated, as it has in the past several years.

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"2016 was the worst year of persecution of Christians on record, with a shocking 215 million Christians experiencing high levels of persecution for their faith," he said. "Nearly 1 in every 12 Christians in the world today lives in an area or in a culture in which Christianity is illegal, forbidden or punished.

"And yet today the world is largely silent on the shocking wave of religious intolerance," he added.

Open Doors World WatchList 2017. Image courtesy of Open Doors

Open Doors World WatchList 2017. Image courtesy of Open Doors

 This image is available for web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

For the 15th consecutive year, North Korea tops the list, which is tabulated with an equation that takes into account crimes against Christians and restrictions on practice. Somalia, where the Islamic militia al-Shabab terrorizes Christians, came in second.

The rest of the top 10 resembles a scrambled version of last year's list, but with the addition of Yemen and the dropping of Libya from 10th to 11th place.

  • North Korea
  • Somalia
  • Afghanistan
  • Pakistan
  • Sudan
  • Syria
  • Iraq
  • Iran
  • Yemen
  • Eritrea

The persecution of Christians is not just "something that happened 2,000 years ago that we read about in the Bible," said U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., who spoke at the Washington news conference at which the 2017 World Watch List was released.

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The list is 50 countries long, with the most problematic concentrated in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Aderholt was joined by U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., who has tried to push persecuted religious minorities higher on the agenda of both Congress and presidential administrations since being elected to the House in 1980. Smith said he hadn't talked to Trump about the issue but had given a copy of a bill he is sponsoring to strengthen protections for Christians abroad to Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

Knox Thames, the special adviser for religious minorities in Near East and South Central Asia at the State Department, said the U.S. relies on the work of Open Doors and must continue to speak out against blasphemy laws around the world — statutes that punish people for speech and acts deemed offensive to the government's view of religion.

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"The stakes could not be higher for religious minorities," Thames said, and included atheists, members of Muslim minorities, Yazidis, Baha'is and others among those who are suffering. He also urged the next administration to appoint an ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom.

The position, now held by Rabbi David Saperstein, has in the past taken months or longer for the president and Senate to fill.

Edward Awabdeh, a Syrian pastor who works with Open Doors and who has had the opportunity to flee his country but opted to stay and minister to his flock, came to the release of the watch list to describe Christians' plight in the Syrian civil war.

"We thank God for the opportunity that we are there," he said.


  1. Questionable source spotted. the money shot is the inclusion of Mexico and Colombia. Go to the link for “The List” and then click on the individual articles for those two countries. Their comments amount to buzzword bingo games and bull feathers. If traditionally Catholic countries are not hospitable to certain non-Catholic sects, that’s not anti-Christianity, it’s anti-nonsense. BTW there are plenty of Mormons in those two countries, and they are doing just fine, thank you very much. Mitt Romney’s Dad George Romney was even born in Mexico in one Mormon community there. One suspects the polite Mormons behave themselves better just like the stateside door-knockers, than obnoxious street preachers of more emotionalistic sects. So, perhaps in villages where tribal religion thrives and people pay homage to the RCC, glossolalia-speakers are found tiresome and thus are disliked? Boo freakin hoo.

  2. Unless our interests or citizens are involved, we really don’t seem to care much.

  3. The criteria used for any country but the top 5 on the list is pretty wonky. The list also misses a major fact. There are now two Sudans. The Southern Sudan is a Christian majority nation. The comments deal with only the original Sudan (Now I guess, North Sudan) and are way out of date.

    The only thing I can think of for Mexico and Colombia would be something these guys would clearly miss. Churches in those countries are typically linked with progressive causes and are obvious targets of organized crime.

    “2016 Was the Deadliest Year for Catholic Priests in Mexico”

  4. Let’s hope it does fail, and for more important reasons than simply propping up the fantasies of organised religion.

  5. Catholic Churches, sure. But that’s not anti-Christianity. The Mexican Revolution of 1910-13 was remarkably anticlerical and as a result laws were passed forbidding the churches and priests from participating in politics. If the U.S. had laws like that, voila, no more Falwells, Wildmons, Perkinses, Dobsons, Grahams, and like getting rich off the gullibility of the public. But, again, not anti-Christian per se, and not persecution.

    Originally the Spanish created a legend of peasant called Don Diego who had a vision of La Virgen de Guadalupe and from that he build a church and more indigenous people became Catholic. But while the Virgen was viewed as an intercessor with God for our sins, she is also viewed as an intercessor for the poor with authority, but not political.

  6. Mexico relented a bit on the anticlericism in the years afterwards. Especially after an insurrection of the ultra-religious in the late 20’s called the Cristero War. The insurgents were bought and paid for by the Catholic Church.

  7. If we are concerned it shouldn’t just be Christians. We have Americans of just about every faith. There are also atheists being persecuted in Muslim majority countries for not having a religion.

  8. When ‘christian’ congressmen in our ‘Christian nation’ are allied with the kings of headchoppin suicidal terrorists, helping slaughter innocents, discombobulating entire regions, creating refugees, widows and orphans by the millions for dominance and control of multi-$Trillion gas/oil markets, while feeding everyone bs about “fighting terrorism” …it creates enemies by the tens of millions.

  9. Not to mention Muslims in the US of H8 for having theirs.

  10. Stop your whining and rejoice

    Matthew 5:10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

  11. About that, what Lauren Markoe states – “Open Doors and its supporters in Congress pointed to Islamic extremists as the most deadly force around the world for Christians, followed by governments hostile to Christianity, led by North Korea” – which begs the question:

    So what, then, if and when the same thing, in comparison, can be said this way about Muslims?

    Whereas “U.S. National Counterterrorism Center pointed to ‘terrorism’ as the most deadly force around the world for Muslims'” (1) – “Foreign Policy magazine pointed to ‘official U.S. government policy’ as the most deadly force around the world for Muslims, followed by governments hostile to Islam, led by ‘the United States'” (2).


    (1) “In cases where the religious affiliation of terrorism casualties could be determined, Muslims suffered between 82 and 97% of terrorism-related fatalities over the past five years” (U.S. National Counterterrorism Center, 2011)

    (2) “the United States has killed nearly 30 Muslims for every American lost. The real ratio is probably much higher, and a reasonable upper bound for Muslim fatalities (based mostly on higher estimates of ‘excess deaths’ in Iraq due to the sanctions regime and the post-2003 occupation) is well over one million, equivalent to over 100 Muslim fatalities for every American lost. …  It is also striking to observe that virtually all of the Muslim deaths were the direct or indirect consequence of official U.S. government policy. By contrast, most of the Americans killed by Muslims were the victims of non-state terrorist groups such as al Qaeda or the insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.” (Foreign Policy, Nov 30, 2009)

  12. I’m not for religious persecution in any form, but something must be said for the depth of faith of Christians in countries where they’re persecuted. In this country mainstream Christians lean toward the left’s cry for “fairness” and schemes of income redistribution by the state. Evangelicals have been swayed toward various causes on the conservative political side. Living in a country where one is persecuted for their Christian faith, means steering clear of politics and clinging to that faith as the absolute anchor for their life!

  13. About that final finishing touch there to what David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors USA, is quoted as saying – “religious intolerance (being) the central issue that (Trump and his administration are) going to have to deal with, whether you’re looking at it through the lens of immigration, whether you’re looking at it through the lens of terrorism … We’re hopeful that they take it seriously. If they don’t I think we will see this administration fail” – what is that?  “(W)e will see this administration fail”?!

    (1) Is that a prophetic judgment, with this other prophet David being just that, God’s own prophet?  Coz thus saith the Lord your God to you, PEOTUS Trump, you better set My people free from all this global persecution stuff – or else – you know, “we will see this administration fail”!

    (2) Is that an Open Doors’ poor attempt at rebranding one of the pro-Obama-and-pro-Clinton, snowflakey, social justice warriors’ ultimatums?  Because, I don’t recall Open Doors ever making such threat when, within these past 2 years, lobbying the same anti-persecution cause to POTUS Obama and SOSUS Clinton (Open Doors USA, May 13, 2015 & Oct. 12, 2016).  So why this one-of-a-kind threatening gesture toward Trump in particular this time around?  Most telling of all of Open Doors’ politicization and partisanship is the fact that Obama did end up rejecting their legislative proposal after all.  So what’s Open Doors’ final verdict on that, then?  That, like we should’ve told Obama the way we do Trump now, “See, ‘we will see this administration fail'”?  OK, so where’s the public statement coming from Open Doors declaring the confirmed “fail”-ure of the two-term presidency of Obama due to his and his administration’s total abandonment of globally persecuted Christians?  Let’s have it now, please.

  14. “U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., who has tried to push persecuted religious minorities higher on the agenda of both Congress and presidential administrations”

    This is a good thing on its face. No one should be persecuted for faith or lack thereof. Actions are a different matter.

  15. Keep informing the public of the problem of the lack of religious liberty in the Middle East. The chance in the is not very good at all for Christians ever to be free tp practice their faith there. I wonder if the best solution would be to leave and live elsewhere–but where? No power is creating new nations any more.

  16. One of reasons for persecution in some Muslim- majority countries is the insistence of some Christians to proselytize, often against the law.

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