Islamic nations made up more than half of the top 10 countries listed as the world's worst persecutor of Christians in a new report.
Saudi Arabia again took the No. 2 spot, followed by Iran (No. 3), Afghanistan (No. 4), Somalia (No. 5), Maldives (No. 6), Yemen (No. 7), and Uzbekistan (No. 10). Compared to last year's Open Doors' World Watch List, the 2009 list had one more Muslim dominated country.
Taking the top spot again this year for the seventh year in a row is the totalitarian and reclusive state of North Korea.
Dr. Carl Moeller, Open Doors USA president, highlighted several changes to the 2009 World Watch List including the reemergence of Somalia into the top 10 list.
"Somalia and Eritrea are also in the top 10," Moeller noted to The Christian Post in an interview Tuesday. "You can see that the Christian community in that part of Africa has just been hammered."
Also Afghanistan moved up two spots to No. 5 this year because of increased activities by the Taliban, a Muslim extremist group that formerly ruled the country.
Interestingly, Moeller noted, both China and Bhutan, both Asian countries, dropped out of the top 10.
Although China (No. 12), which has a troubled history with religious freedom, is no longer part of the top 10 list, Moeller said the ministry will continue to keep a close eye on the country he describes as an "enigma."
"China is an enigma in many ways in relations to persecution," Moeller said. "There has never been greater openness in China, and yet at the same time - having spent some time there, in particular just a few months ago – we still hear direct reports from individuals who have been arrested, interrogated and even held for days without being told why."
"And this type of persecution continues to go on especially in rural areas," he said.
The two countries that showed the most improvement in Christian persecution over the past year are Vietnam, which dropped from No. 17 to No. 23, and Columbia, which was dropped from the top 50 list after ranking high for many years on the list. Vietnam was No. 8 on the World Watch List in 2006.
World Watch List 2009
1. North Korea
2. Saudi Arabia