(CNSNews.com) – Eight of the ten countries where Christians face the worst persecution are Islamic nations, according to Open Doors USA’s 2018 “world watch list,” which attributes the maltreatment to “Islamic oppression.”
And of the top 50 “countries where it is most dangerous to follow Jesus” in this year’s report, no fewer than 36 are members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the bloc of Muslim-majority states.
The advocacy organization reports that 215 million Christians – one in 12 worldwide – experience high levels of persecution.
During the reporting period for the 2018 list, it says, 3,066 Christians were killed, 1,252 were abducted, 1,020 were raped or sexually harassed, and 793 churches were attacked.
The two non-Islamic states among the ten worst persecutors of Christians in the latest report are North Korea – the Stalinist regime has topped the list every year since 2002 and does so again this year; and Eritrea, an authoritarian dictatorship that has ranked in the top ten since 2015, and is in sixth place this year.
The eight Islamic nations in the top ten are, in order of severity of the persecution, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, Pakistan, Libya, Iraq, Yemen and Iran.
Taking places 11 to 20 are India, Saudi Arabia, Maldives, Nigeria, Syria, Uzbekistan, Egypt, Vietnam, Turkmenistan and Laos. All are OIC members bar India (a Hindu-majority nation with a large Muslim minority), and communist-ruled Vietnam and Laos.
Syria has dropped out of the top ten for the first time in five years. In 2014, Open Doors ranked it as the third-worst persecutor of Christians.
Among Islamic states where persecution of Christians is rife are countries deemed to be important U.S. allies, such as Afghanistan (2), Pakistan (5), Iraq (8), Saudi Arabia (12), Egypt (17), Jordan (21), Qatar (27) and Turkey (31).
The world watch list report scores countries on a scale of 0 to 100 points (with 100 characterizing the greatest degree of persecution), based on a research process that draws from data from field workers and external experts and includes “questions covering five spheres of life and the prevalence of violent incidents.” The five spheres are church life, national life, community life, family life and private life.
The worst persecutor this year, North Korea, scored 96 points, while the next nine ranged from 93 for Afghanistan to 85 for Iran.
Islamic countries account for well below one-third of the total number of countries in the world. Yet they have dominated the top ten of the Open Doors’ annual list of Christian persecutors every year for more than a decade.
Back in 2004, only four of the top ten countries were Islamic. (The six non-Islamic countries on that year’s list were North Korea, Laos, Vietnam, Bhutan, Burma and China.)
The number of Muslim states among the top ten then rose steadily – to five in 2005 and 2006, to six in 2007 and 2008, to seven in 2009. Every year since 2010, either eight or nine of the ten countries listed have been Islamic.
Apart from the consistently list-topping North Korea, other countries which have perennially featured among the top worst persecutors of Christians in Open Doors’ reckoning include:
--Iran, which has made the report’s top ten every year since 2004, reaching as high as second place in 2010 and 2011.
--Afghanistan, which has made the top ten every year since 2007, reaching second place in 2012 and again in 2018.
-- Somalia, which has been among the top ten every year since 2009, reaching the position of the world’s second-worst persecutor in 2014, 2015 and again in 2017.
--Iraq, which has made the top ten every year since 2011, reaching second place in 2016.
--Pakistan, which has been in the top ten every year since 2014, reaching as high as fourth place in 2017.
The Trump administration this month for the first time placed Pakistan on a “special watch list” for religious freedom violations, but stopped short of assigning the more weighty “country of particular concern” (CPC) designation.
The ten currently-designated CPCs are Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
Those ten countries all feature on the Open Doors list of 50 countries – which focuses on persecution of Christians specifically, rather than religious freedom violations in general – ranging in position from 1st (North Korea) to 43rd (China).
Major trends in Christian persecution identified by Open Doors this year include the rise of religious nationalism, seen especially in countries like India and Burma; and intense persecution in former Soviet Central Asian republics, coming both from nationalist pro-Islamic governments and from societies where Islam is reviving.
The spread of radical Islam is a particularly key factor.
“Islamic oppression is one of the most widely recognized sources of persecution for Christians in the world today – and it continues to spread – aiming to bring many parts of the world under shari’a law,” the report says.
“The movement, which often results in Islamic militancy and persecution of Christians, is expanding in Asia (Philippines, Bangladesh, Indonesia) and Africa (Egypt, Nigeria, Somalia).”