Wednesday, 06 January 2010
North Korea is again the world's worst persecutor of Christians, according to a new ranking released today by religious liberty advocates Open Doors.
The communist nation has topped the missions organization's World Watch List for eight consecutive years because of its long history of targeting Christians for arrest, torture and murder. California-based Open Doors estimates that of the 200,000 North Koreans languishing in political prisons, 40,000 to 60,000 of them are Christians.
"It is certainly not a shock that North Korea is No. 1 on the list of countries where Christians face the worst persecution," said Open Doors USA President Carl Moeller. "There is no other country in the world where Christians are persecuted in such a horrible and systematic manner. Three generations of a family are often thrown into prison when one member is incarcerated."
Although Iran has repeatedly surfaced in Open Doors' Top 10, the nation rose from No. 3 to No. 2 on this year's list because of a recent wave of arrests of Christians that began in 2008 and grew stronger in 2009. The ministry estimates that at least 85 Christians were arrested last year, including two sisters who became the focus of an advocacy campaign by Open Doors and other Christian ministries.
"Iran jumping to No. 2 is noteworthy," Moeller said. "Iranian Muslim background believers Maryam Rustampoor and Marzieh Amirizadeh were arrested simply for being Christians and refusing to recant their faith in Jesus Christ. They were released almost two months ago, helped by an advocacy campaign by Open Doors and other Christian organizations. But these two brave women along with hundreds of other believers still remain at risk inside Iran."
Saudi Arabia remains at No. 3, though Open Doors said it received no reports of Christians being killed or physically harmed for their faith, and only one report of a Christian arrested was noted.
Somalia moved from No. 5, to the No. 4 spot after its Parliament in April voted unanimously to institute Islamic law. Open Doors leaders said the ministry also received reports of Christians being killed and arrested.
Rounding out the top 10 are Maldives, Afghanistan, Yemen, Mauritania, Laos and Uzbekistan, respectively. Yemen's position at No. 7 was unchanged over last year. But concern about Islamic fundamentalism in the nation has grown since U.S. officials discovered that al-Qaida leaders in Yemen planned a failed attempt to bomb a plane en route to Detroit on Christmas Day.
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