Open Doors 2018 World Watch List: Christians in Egypt and Turkey targeted in 'unprecedented' spike in persecution

Christians in Egypt experienced an unprecedented spike in persecution last year, a watchdog's annual report claims, with more than 200 people driven from their homes and 128 killed.

Hardline Islamist extremists, pushed out of Syria and Iraq, have fled to Turkey and Egypt bringing a sharp rise in violence and aggression towards Christians there.

Open Doors is a Christian persecution charity and produces its World Watch List each year which documents levels of oppression around the world and ranks the worst 50 countries to be a Christian. Each country is given 'persecution points' measuring factors such as open violence but also more subtle indicators such as restrictions of private and family life, the freedom to worship and change religion openly and harassment in their jobs and local communities.

Open Doors

Both Egypt and Turkey shot up the list in the last year with Open Doors pointing to 'unprecedented levels of persecution and suppression' in both countries.

'Michael Jones', whose real name is hidden to protect his identity, is an evangelical church leader in Egypt's capital, Cairo, and told Christian Today 2017 was 'one of the most difficult years when it comes to the number of deadly attacks that have hit Christians in Egypt'.

He said the rise in violence, which saw 49 people killed in two church bombings at Easter and another 29 in a bus attack while travelling to a monastery in Upper Egypt, was underpinned by everyday discrimination against Christians.

He said Christians are denied top jobs in politics and teachers freely ignore or isolate Christian pupils in schools. The most marked difference came in the rural villages, Michael said, where the local imam was often seen as the sole voice of truth and authority.

'When the local Christian community looks out and see that the dominant control is not really in the hands of President Sisi but in the local fanatical authorities you feel you do not have anywhere to go. You are in a situation where local authorities are expressing pressure,' he told Christian Today.

'Your children have to go to the local school, you have to go to the local hospital, buy your food in the local shop and in all those places the heavy hand of fanaticism is present.'

You can read Christian Today's full interview with Michael on our website here.

Open Doors UK's CEO Lisa Pearce said: 'Christians in Egypt face a barrage of discrimination and intimidation yet they refuse to give up their faith.

'In Egypt, as in many other Middle Eastern countries, your religion is stated on your identity card. This makes discrimination and persecution easy – you are overlooked for jobs, planning permits are hard to obtain and you are a target when you go to church.'

Elsewhere Nepal and India have also seen a sharp rise in persecution, the report says, pointing to the 'growing influence of Hindu extremists in a surge of religious nationalism' in both countries.

Last year 23,793 Christians in India alone were physically or mentally abused – more than the numbers abused in all the other countries on the list put together – and Open Doors accused the government of turning 'a blind eye to those persecuting Christians'.

While North Korea still ranked as the worse country in the world to be a Christian, as it has for several years, the trend across the world is of worsening abuse aimed at Christians and Afghanistan is now a close second to the pariah state.

The report suggests South East Asia will be the 'next emerging persecution hotbed' with Islamic extremism fuelling a steady rise of persecution in Malaysia, the Maldives and the Philippines.

In Central Asia any non-state endorsed religious group faces a 'crackdown', the report says, and Christians are targeted with 'harsh penalties and brutal intimidation by the security services'.