Open Doors released its annual World Watch List on Wednesday, red-flagging countries with intense persecution of Christians.
If we are going to make a difference for the church in these oppressive areas, the first step is awareness, which makes the World Watch List an extremely important tool, said Johan Companjen, president of Open Doors International, in a statement. Then we must pray and act to bring about change.
There was little change over the past year, however, as all but one of the countries from last years list was still included in this years top 10 list.
This year, six of Open Doors ten worst Christian persecution countries are ones where Islam is the dominant religion. They include: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Somalia, Maldives, Yemen and Afghanistan. Afghanistan moved up a rank (last year No. 11) to take spot 10.
North Korea again tops the persecutor list for the fifth straight year. The reclusive communist state is known to execute Christians found with a Bible, imprison and torture believers and ban all forms of worship.
It is certainly not a surprise that North Korea remains No. 1. There is no other country in the world where Christians are being persecuted in such a horrible and systematic manner, said Dr. Carl Moeller, president/CEO of Open Doors USA.
According to Open Doors, more Christians in North Korea were arrested in 2006 than in 2005. Between 50,000 and 70,000 Christians are currently suffering in prison camps where torture is regularly implemented.
Open Doors is sponsoring a Prayer Campaign for North Korea and helping to organize North Korea Freedom Week on Apr. 22-29.
Saudi Arabia, which again ranked second among the worst persecutors, also prohibits Christians and all non-Muslims from public worship. The country also bans conversion to Christianity, which can be punishable by death.
The Open Doors list includes three countries with communist governments: North Korea, Vietnam and Laos. Bhutan is the only Buddhist country in the top 10.
Other noteworthy countries include Uzbekistan, Eritrea, Comoros, Iraq, northern Nigeria Algeria, Mauritania, Turkey, Ethiopia and northwest Kenya where the situation for Christians is deteriorating.
Iraqs Christian population is estimated to have dropped below 450,000, half the size in 1991.
Meanwhile, conditions improved in other parts of the world including Morocco (from No. 20 to 33), Nepal (No. 34 to 48) and Tunisia (No. 32 to 46).
When you realize hundreds of Christians are imprisoned for their faith in one country alone Eritrea (No. 13) it should cause us to redouble our prayers and efforts to help, said Companjen.
2007 Top 10 Persecutors:
1. North Korea
2. Saudi Arabia
On the web: opendoorsusa.org