(Photo: REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani)
WASHINGTON – Nine out of the ten countries ranked the most oppressive for Christians to live in were due to Islamic extremism, according to Open Doors' annual World Watch List, which was released Wednesday.
With the exception of North Korea – ranked No. 1 for the 12th year in a row – every other country on the top 10 list had as its source of persecution, Islamic extremism. North Korea's persecution of Christians was due to communist oppression and dictatorial paranoia, explained Open Doors in its 2014 World Watch List. According to the report, the countries with the most extreme persecution besides North Korea are: Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Maldives, Pakistan, Iran, and Yemen, respectively.
Open Doors announced the rankings for its 2014 World Watch List, which documented the 50 nations least tolerant of their Christian population, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The Christian persecution watchdog group's methodology involved measuring the level of Christian freedom found in five spheres of life: private, family, community, national, and church. A sixth sphere regarding degree of violence also factors in to the rankings.
Dr. David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors; Dr. Ronald Boyd-MacMillan, head of Strategy and Research for Open Doors International; and Dr. Paul Marshall, author and senior fellow at Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom, were among those who gave remarks at the press conference.
America's Silence on Religious Persecution
In his remarks, Dr. Paul Marshall explained that in contrast to previous years, the United States has been largely silent on the issue of religious persecution. Marshall told The Christian Post that he believes the root of this silence – also seen in Protestant U.S. church, according to him – is in part due to the rise of "realism" regarding diplomacy.
"I think that one reason is because in the State Department you have the ascendency of realism in international relations," said Marshall. "So you just deal with states according to what you think you can get and don't seek to delve inside them."
Marshall also told CP that another factor was that the Obama administration had different priorities regarding human rights abroad. "The Administration has put a larger stress on other forms of human rights or rights conceived of in different ways," he said. "Rights of women…rights of homosexuals, I think these have risen in the agenda so they are apparently more outspoken on those issues."
Jordan a Safe Haven or Not?
Christians might also be surprised to see that Jordan was ranked number 26 on the list of 50 countries with the worst Christian persecution, given that Jordan is often applauded for being a moderate Muslim country and for its religious tolerance.
Jordan's increase in Christian persecution caused it to jump 8 ranks, rising to 26 this year compared to 34 in 2013.
Dr. Ronald Boyd-MacMillan of Open Doors told The Christian Post that "It is not better in Jordan by any means and we are tracking quite seriously the impact of Syria and…the Jihadist movements and so on into Jordan."
Boyd-MacMillan said that the major source of persecution for Christians in Jordan was "primarily Islamic extremism" and was likely being fed by the destabilization found in neighboring Syria.
Open Doors' report of increased Christian persecution in Jordan comes just months after the country's constitutional monarchy hosted an event in the Hashemite Kingdom's capital of Amman titled "Challenges facing Arab Christians," where the aim was to "discuss challenges facing Arab Christians, and document them and identify ways to address them in order to preserve the Christians' important role especially in maintaining the city of Jerusalem and its history," according to Jordan's media agency PETRA.