The 2018 World Watch List, compiled by Open Doors, of where Christians are most persecuted. Map courtesy of Open Doors

North Korea is worst place for Christian persecution, group says

The 2018 World Watch List, compiled by Open Doors USA, where Christians are most persecuted. Map courtesy of Open Doors USA

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(RNS) For the 16th year in a row, North Korea tops the list of 50 countries ranked for the worst persecution of Christians in the world, according to the Christian watchdog organization Open Doors USA.

A close second is Afghanistan, which jumped up one place since last year's ranking. With the exception of North Korea, all the countries that cracked the top 10 are predominantly Muslim and most are in the Middle East and Africa.

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"Open Doors exists to support and to advocate for persecuted Christians where ever they may be in the world," Open Doors USA's CEO and president, David Curry, said in announcing the list in Washington on Wednesday (Jan. 10). "We are asking that the world begin to use its power and its influence to push for justice, that we would use the list to direct us where justice is needed most in the world today."

Curry also highlighted three trends Open Doors identifies as persecution against Christians — the rise of "rogue agencies" such as the Islamic State group and the North Korean government; "Islamic extremism"; and actions such as rape and forced marriage.

The list is compiled annually by Open Doors, whose researchers assign a point value to incidents of persecution — forced conversions, attacks on churches, arrests, etc. Open Doors has published its list for 26 years.

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The group's top 10 countries where Christians face the most persecution are:

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Just below the top 10 is India, where rising Hindu nationalism has increased persecution of other religious groups.

Not on the list of the 50 countries where Christians face the worst persecution: the United States.


  1. Do they only persecute Christians in North Korea? Anyone else they might be concerned about?

  2. The North Korea tends to single out Christianity due to its roots as an outside Western religion and its connection with South Korea. South Korea has one of the largest Christian minority populations in East Asia. Devout Buddhism is certainly persecuted for its pacifism.

    “…both Shamanism and Buddhism are seen as part of Korean culture and believed to pose less of a challenge to the communist system. As a result, there are numerous Buddhist and Cheondoist temples. However, those who practice Buddhism, noted CSW, still risk “imprisonment, forced labor, poor living and sanitary conditions, abuse, violence and torture.” The regime is less repressive toward Shamanism since “the belief is deeply rooted in culture and society.” In fact, party officials reportedly have seen fortune-tellers, apparently something seen as having fewer anti-state overtones.”

  3. That was indeed my point. Anything not of the religion of the state is seems as a challenge to the authority of the state. It’s religion persecuting other religions for not being the right religion.

    That’s what makes this series of articles so annoying. In this particular myopic scenario, the only ones who count are Christians.

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