By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
WASHINGTON (Worthy News) – Christian advocacy group Open Doors said Wednesday that Afghanistan had replaced North Korea as the worst country for Christians on its annual World Watch List (WWL).
The WWL includes 50 nations where Open Doors claims Christians face the most persecution.
They are among over 360 million people—1 in 7 people identifying themselves as Christians worldwide, facing persecution for their faith, Open Doors says.
“How can it be that in 2022, more than 360,000,000 people still face persecution or discrimination because they follow Jesus?” wondered Lindy Lowry, the managing editor of Open Doors USA.
“To get an idea of the magnitude we’re talking about, imagine 3,600 crowded NFL stadiums brimming with people.”
The decision to make Afghanistan the number 1 persecution nation on the annual WWL instead of North Korea seemed remarkable: At least hundreds of thousands of people, many of them Christians, are held there in notorious North Korean prison camps. Many believers face torture and even death, several investigators have concluded.
AFGHANISTAN NO. 1
Open Doors linked its move on Afghanistan to the takeover by the Islamist Taliban group of the country amid the withdrawal of U.S. troops and allies, which impacted the Christian minority.
“It is impossible to live openly as a Christian in Afghanistan. Leaving Islam is considered shameful, and Christian converts face dire consequences if their new faith is discovered,” Open Doors explained.
“Either they must flee the country, or they will be killed. This was true before the Taliban takeover: the situation has become even more dangerous for believers this year,” the group added. “The Taliban will make sure that Islamic rules and customs are implemented and kept. Christian converts don’t have any option but to obey them.”
That doesn’t mean life has improved for Christians in North Korea, an isolated communist dictatorship. “North Korea has been at or near the top of the World Watch List for more than 20 years,” Open Doors said in its assessment.
“That’s because any North Korean caught following Jesus is at immediate risk of imprisonment, brutal torture, and death. An estimated 50,000 to 70,000 Christians are imprisoned in North Korea’s notorious system of prisons and labor camps.”
And, to make matters worse, “often a family will share the same fate as the person captured. The government ruled by the Kim family views Christians as the most dangerous political class of people, and the persecution is violent and intense,” Open Doors stressed.
“North Korean parents often hide their faith from their children, churches of more than a few people are non-existent, and most worship is done as secretly as possible. Life for Christians in North Korea is a constant cauldron of pressure; capture or death is only a mistake away.”
The other countries in the top 10 of the WWL are respectively Somalia, Libya, Yemen, Eritrea,
Nigeria, Pakistan, Iran, and India.
The countries are all known for Islamist attacks against Christian communities, with thousands of believers being injured or killed annually and many held in prisons.
“The facts this research reveals are staggering,” said Lowry, involved in the WWL.
“Modern-day Christian persecution is the highest it has ever been—with 2021 seeing Christians under fire in Afghanistan, Iran, Nigeria, India, and more,” Lowry told Worthy News.
“It’s important we know the current reality. But the list is also an invitation to join God and His people,” the editor noted.
“In Psalm 24, the lyricist talks of his assurance that God will keep him “safe in His dwelling.” When we support and pray for our sisters and brothers living in the 50 countries on the World Watch List, we help God provide a place of safety—a family that will never forsake or forget them.”
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