By Worthy News Bureau Chief Stefan J. Bos with Worthy News Special Correspondent Johan Th. Bos reporting from the Netherlands
BUDAPEST/ERMELO (Worthy News) — The "persecution of Christians with a Muslim background" has "drastically" increased around the world, according to a report released Tuesday, February 3, by a leading Christian rights group.
Netherlands-based Open Doors, which supports Christians "persecuted for their faith," said Communist-run North Korea still tops the top 10 of its annual World Watch List (WWL) of 50 countries with the worst cases of religious persecution.
"However number two through seven are occupied by countries where people who converted from Islam to Christianity are in life danger," the group told Worthy News.
"Christians with a Muslim background are a vulnerable group within the Muslim world," said Open Doors Director Tjalling Schotanus speaking from Open Doors' headquarters in the Dutch town of Ermelo. "A Muslim who abandons Islam is seen as someone who offends his family, his country and his religion," he added.
Saudi Arabia is mentioned at WWL's number two as "only Muslims are allowed to openly express their religion," Open Doors said. Iran was mentioned at number three amid reports that "many Christians with a Muslim background have been detained and tortured," the group said. "In addition the country wants to introduce a law which will force judges to impose the death penalty on those abandoning Islam."
Afghanistan also had the dubious honor of rising three places compared to a year ago, from number seven to four, due to what Open Doors described as mainly the "growing pressure from the Taliban and other Muslim extremist groups in the country," despite the presence of an international peacekeeping force.
Other countries mentioned as worst violators of religious freedom are Iraq, Eritrea and India. Open Doors recalled that India witnessed "an explosion of violence” since last summer when Christians were blamed for the death of a Hindu nationalist leader in the state of Orissa, although Maoist rebels claimed responsibility for the attack. Christians have also denied involvement in the killing.
Open Doors also expressed concern over Eritrea, saying some 3,000 Christians are now detained for their faith in the African nation, including in "cellars, containers and military prison camps," where several believers reportedly died of torture and lack of medical attention.
Open Doors' WWL report is closely monitored by churches and policy makers. The organization has been supporting persecuted Christians since 1955. It claims to aid Christians in over 50 countries with advocacy, the distribution of Christian literature and by providing social-economic support and education.