“There are over 215 millions of Christians persecuted around the world,” Christian NGO Open Doors warns in its new 2017 World Watch List.
For the fourth year in a row, the level of overall persecution has risen. Particularly in Asia:
- Pakistan rises to fourth in the list with levels of violence even greater than northern Nigeria.
- As Hindu nationalists batter the churches, India climbs to its highest ever ranking of 15.
- In Laos, Bangladesh, Vietnam and tiny Bhutan, things are getting more difficult for Christians.
- Buddhist nationalism returns Sri Lanka to the top 50.
- Some 60 million of China’s 97 million Christians worship outside state-organised churches.
Ironically, fewer reports came in of Christians having been killed in Syria and Iraq – but only because most believers have already fled.
In sub-Saharan Africa, Islamic radicalisation is entering the mainstream. In Somalia – number 2 on the World Watch List – at least a dozen Christians were killed this year by al-Shabaab militants. Militants were also active in neighbouring Kenya, leaving this Christian majority country firmly in the top 20. Mali rose 12 places in the list: three people were killed when a gunman opened fire outside a Christian radio station. In Nigeria, Christians face not only the violence of Boko Haram, but also Muslim Hausa-Fulani herdsmen who have driven thousands of Christians off their lands.
To be reported new countries in the ranking such as Colombia and Mexico. At least 23 Christian leaders were killed in Mexico, and four in Colombia.
But North Korea is still number one. Tens of thousands of Christians are incarcerated in horrific labour camps, and thousands more keep their faith in Christ a complete secret – often their own family members do not know of their faith.
Top 20 according to levels of persecution: