(Photo: Courtesy of ACLJ.org)
Religious freedom watchdog Open Doors USA will release its 2012 World Watch list on Jan. 4, detailing the top 50 countries where religious persecution is most severe.
The 2012 World Watch list offers short reports on each country, as well as suggestions for prayer.
“Our mission is to use this extensive resource to spread awareness of the degree and severity of persecution around the world,” reads the Open Doors USA website.
North Korea has remained on the top of the list for the past 10 years. Last year, Iran came in second and Afghanistan came in third.
As the Open Doors website explains, North Korea considers any worship not directed at leaders Kim Jong-II and Kim II-Sung to be illegal.
However, the number of Christians in North Korea continues to increase, with reportedly 400,000 church followers at present.
According to the Open Doors website, the list is compiled from a 50-question survey which addresses different dimensions of religious tolerance. Field workers, indigenous contacts, and the persecuted all responded to the questionnaire.
Critics suspect Egypt, which sat at number 19 last year, will likely be higher on this year’s list due to the Arab Spring uprisings and violent clashes between Christians and the ruling military council.
It is estimated that 95,000 Christians have emigrated from Egypt since the uprisings started in February, according to the Egyptian Federation of Human Rights.
"Arab Spring has obviously impacted the list somewhat," Jerry Dykstra, media relations officer of Open Doors USA, told The Christian Post.
Critics contend that the Arab Spring uprisings caused many underground radical Islamic groups to gain power in Egypt.
Another top contender is Iran.
Iran has gained particular international attention this past year due to its incarceration of Christian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who was arrested in 2009 and later tried for evangelizing Muslims and apostasy, which carries a death sentence.
"For 2012 I think there is going to be some major movement of countries mostly going up on the list and there is also some going down," Dykstra told CP.