2016 World Watch List: African Countries Now Outnumber Mideast Countries In Persecution of Christians

Open Doors
Open Doors

Hermit Kingdom losing lead as modern persecution hits record high, according to 2016 World Watch List.

2014 was the world’s worst year for the persecution of Christians in the modern era. Until 2015 surpassed it.

The 2016 World Watch List (WWL) from Open Doors analyzes how African countries now outnumber Mideast countries on the list, affecting far more Christians numerically (though not as severely). Christian martyrdoms and destruction of churches nearly doubled during the “Year of Fear,” yet only 4 of the top 10 persecuting countries rank among the 10 most violent ones. Meanwhile, the spread in severity among top persecutors shrank by half, and five countries that would have qualified for last year’s list did not make this year’s list because the minimum threshold of persecution is up 50 percent since 2014.

The annual list studies pressures on private, family, community, national, and churchareas of life, plus levels of violence, in order to rank the top 50 countries where “Christians face the most persecution.” [Full list below.]

“Open Doors USA predicted that while Christians faced the worst persecution in modern history in 2014, the worst was yet to come,” the organization stated. “The prediction was sadly fulfilled in 2015—the persecution of Christians increased on every continent.”

More than 7,000 Christians were killed for their faith last year, up drastically from 4,344 in 2014 and 2,123 in 2013. Those numbers don’t include North Korea or parts of Iraq and Syria, where accurate numbers are hard to obtain, Open Doors said. All three of those countries are among the WWL’s top five persecutors.

In addition, 2,400 churches were damaged or attacked worldwide, more than twice the number in 2014.

Violent Islamic extremism was the main culprit, “with its rise being the lead generator of persecution for 35 out of the 50 nations on the list,” stated Open Doors. “Its two hubs are in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa, regions where persecution has risen to a level akin to ethnic cleansing.”

The report agrees with the US State Department assessment in October, which pointed to the “new phenomenon” of non-state terrorism as the biggest threat to minority Christian communities.

In addition to death and destruction, Islamic extremists caused the displacement of thousands of Christians. Syria’s largest Christian city, Aleppo, saw its Christian population shrink from 400,000 to 60,000, while more than 1 million refugees fled from the Horn of Africa and the Middle East to Europe, Open Doors said.

And as “self-styled caliphates” push Islamic terrorism across international borders, Christians are harmed in less obvious ways.

“Governments became more fearful of Islamic extremism and responded by either (a) boosting nationalism as a counter-force or (b) tightening regulations and increasing surveillance over all religious expression,” the report said. In addition, “Muslims throughout the world are becoming more Islamic out of fear that extremists may take over their areas and that [ISIS] sleeper cells may wake.”

And as organizations such as ISIS, Boko Haram, or al-Shabaab push out existing governmental structures, the lack of organized law enforcement leads to “minorities suffering at the hands of violent groups,” the report said.

Open Doors noted other major trends (both negative and positive) here.

Click here to read more.

SOURCE: Christianity Today
Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra

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