Watch List: Islamic Extremism the Cause of Persecution for Christians in 35 Out of 50 Most Persecuted Countries

By Lauretta Brown | January 13, 2017 | 2:56 PM EST

(AP Photo)

( – Open Doors USA released its 25th annual World Watch List (WWL), a ranking of the top 50 countries “where Christians face the most severe persecution for their faith” Wednesday, noting that “Islamic extremism is the lead generator of persecution for 35 out of 50 countries on the list.”

Communist North Korea topped the list for the 16th consecutive year because of the regime’s extreme oppression of Christians. The other nine countries in the top 10 are listed as having either Islamic extremism or Islamic oppression as a main cause of persecution.

The watch list’s top 10 countries for the most Christian persecution are, in order: North Korea, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Eritrea.

Pakistan, which placed fourth on the list, had “the most all-pervasive violence recorded” in the WWL 2017 recording period from November 2015 to October 2016. The 2016 Easter Sunday bombing in Lahore, which killed 74 and injured 320, is one example of the violence Christians have seen in Pakistan over the past year.

World Watch Research also noted in its summary of the Watch List’s major trends that “Islamic militancy is gaining ground in many more sectors of society” in Somalia since, “especially with generous Saudi funding – they are building new networks of extremist schools in Somalia, Kenya, Niger and Burkina Faso, and then targeting local government cadres, asking for concessions to build mosques and sponsoring those who are running for office.”

Yemen, number nine on the list, joined the top 10 this year with the research group noting that, as Saudis seek to remove the Shia Houthi rebels, the country “has become a waste zone, with many Christians caught in the crossfire.”

As previously reported, four sisters of the Missionaries of Charity were killed in a March attack on their home in Yemen, and an Indian priest who was captured in the same attack is still being held hostage.

Iran, number eight on the watch list, “arrested record numbers of ‘house church’ Christians, and many are losing their livelihoods after having to pay huge fines.”

According to Open Doors USA CEO David Curry, "2016 was the worst year of persecution on record with a shocking 215 million Christians experiencing high levels of persecution for their faith."

The report’s fact sheet noted that “in the top 21 countries on the Open Doors World Watch List, 100 percent of Christians experience persecution.”

The list examined the pressures faced by Christians in five spheres of life (private, family, community, national, and church), plus levels of violence. World Watch List questionnaires are distributed by field staff and also filled out by external experts. The questionnaires determine the types of Christianity persecuted, the proportion of territory affected, and the intensity and frequency of persecution.

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