As many as 215 million followers of Christ around the world are being persecuted because of their faith; that means 1 in 12 Christians live where Christianity is “illegal, forbidden, or punished,”
The findings released Wednesday are part of the 2018 Open Doors World Watch List, an annual ranking of the 50 countries where Christians face the most persecution.
North Korea was ranked as the most dangerous country for Christians for the 16th consecutive year. But rivaling it this year is Afghanistan, which ranked No. 2 by less than a point.
“Converts can experience loss of personal property and businesses, beatings, and even death at the hands of their own family members and communities,” Open Doors stated.
According to the report, some 50,000 Christians in North Korea are languishing in prison or labor camps for their faith.
The Open Doors report said:”Believers in North Korea are forced to worship in secret – if they are discovered they are taken to labour camps.”
Rounding out the top 10, following North Korea and Afghanistan, are Somalia (No. 3), Sudan (No. 4), Pakistan (No. 5), Eritrea (No. 6), Libya (No. 7), Iraq (No. 8), Yemen (No. 9), and Iran (No. 10).
“It’s easy to move through life disconnected from what happens to believers in other parts of the world. But this report helps us close the gap between us,” said David Curry, CEO of Open Doors, in the full report.
“After all, the World Watch List isn’t about the numbers, but the people these numbers represent. I hope you see their stories of victory and resilience, and—more than anything—I hope you see the powerful Kingdom work God is accomplishing in some of the most difficult countries in the world.”
In total, Open Doors found that 3,066 Christians were killed last year. Also, 1,252 Christians were abducted, 1,1020 were raped or sexually harassed, and 793 churches were attacked.
India, which came in at 11th place, scored 81 points on the persecution scale, which the group said was “one of the fastest and most intense increases we’ve seen.”
Nepal not only appeared on the list for the first time, but landed at No. 25, in part because of India’s “religious nationalism spilling into the country.”
Mexico, at 39th place, and Colombia, at 49th, were again the only two countries outside the Middle East, Asia and Africa to make the top 50 list. Believers in both nations suffered mostly due to organized crime, corruption and governmental instability.
Overall, 30 countries saw an increase in persecution in the measuring period between November 2016 and October 2017.
One of the persecution topics that received particular attention was the sexual harassment of Christian women.
Open Doors said that every day, “six women are raped, sexually harassed or are forced into marriage to a Muslim under threat of death due to their Christian faith.”
“Research for the World Watch List documented 2,260 such incidences against women — and this number only covers those who had the courage to report such an incident, representing only a fraction of those actually raped and harassed in this way,” the group explained.
Open Doors ranks countries by severity of persecution of Christians, calculated by analyzing the level of violent persecution plus the pressure experienced in five spheres of life, including church life, community life and private life.
Additional reporting by Agencies.