North Korea Worst Christian Persecutor – Open Doors’ World Watch List Reveals

The communist nation of North Korea has topped the Open Doors “World Watch List” of 50 countries where Christians are persecuted by their own governments.

|TOP|North Korea was again this year followed by the Islamic country of Saudi Arabia, as well as other Islam-dominated countries in the top ten are Iran (at Nr 3), Somalia (4), Maldives (5), and Yemen (8).

However, Open Doors explain that there has tended to be more openness observed in most of the communist nations in the top ten, which include Vietnam (7), Laos (9) and China (10). Open Doors also reveals that Mahayana Buddhism is the state religion of Bhutan which comes in at number 6.

According to Open Doors, it is believed that tens of thousands of Christians are currently suffering in North Korean prison camps, and are having to endure extreme abuse and violence, according to the 2006 World Watch List.

Though no exact figures can be given, Open Doors estimates that hundreds of Christians were killed by North Korea’s ‘Hermit Regime’ in 2005.

The second worst position on the Open Doors list was Saudi Arabia, for the fourth year in a row. Saudi Arabia is a country in which religious freedom does not exist, tell Open Doors. The legal system is based on Islamic law (Shariah) and 'apostasy' – leaving Islam or converting to another religion – is punishable by death.

Open Doors recorded more than 70 expatriate Christians who were arrested there in 2005 during worship in private homes in what has been called Saudi Arabia’s largest crackdown on Christians in a decade.

Worryingly, in third place, Iran has seemed to deteriorate even more in its religious freedom for Christians over the past year, following the election of the hard-line conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the presidency in June 2005

The new president of Iran had hailed his election triumph as a new Islamic revolution that could spread throughout the world and pledged to restore an 'Islamic' government in Iran

|AD|Somalia, in fourth place, has seen a similar deterioration in religious freedom with five Muslim-background believers (MBBs) killed by Islamists in 2005, report Open Doors. Christians make up less than 1% of the population and, like the top three in the WWL list, practise their faith in secret.

The Maldives, which comes in fifth place, is one of the least evangelised countries in the world, with Sharia law is in place which prohibits the conversion from Islam to another religion.

In sixth position, the situation in Buddhist Bhutan has also deteriorated, with Christians being excluded from child education, government jobs as well as being prohibited from setting up private businesses. Open Doors reveal that Christians are regularly arrested and often experience physical assaults.

Although the communist countries of Vietnam and Laos are ranked 7th and 9th in the List, Christian leaders there have indicated that the situation has improved since 2005, with believers being allowed to build and renovate church buildings and conduct training.

Yemen, in ninth position, is the only new country on the 2006 World Watch List. Open Doors report that during the past year, several Christian converts from Islam were beaten and arrested for their faith in the country.

China came in 10th on the list, the same as last year, and there is no significant change in terms of religious freedom there. However, a massive crackdown on house churches took place over 2005 with thousands of Christians arrested. Most were released after a few days although some are still in prison, report Open Doors.

Eddie Lyle, Chief Executive of Open Doors UK & Ireland says, “We in the UK believe in respecting the rights and liberties of all in our society regardless of religious beliefs, and we call on those in influential positions to ensure that Christians around the world are given the same freedoms and rights to practise their faith. We also call on Christians to stand with our brothers and sisters around the world who are suffering for their faith and to pray that they will stay strong through all their trials.”

The Open Doors annual World Watch List ranks countries according to the intensity of persecution of Christians for actively following Jesus Christ. The list is based on evaluations and testimonies obtained by Open Doors’ indigenous contacts, field workers and members of the Persecuted Church.

A specially-designed questionnaire comprising 49 questions is used to compile the World Watch List and a point value is assigned each country depending on how the questions are answered. The total number of points determines each country's position on the List. For example, North Korea was given 82 points. Countries 2-6 had points in the 60s, followed by countries 8-13 with points in the 50s.

A complete top-50 list and a more in-depth situation on the World Watch List will be released by Open Doors in the near future.