I suspect that most American Christians believe this persecution is limited to that by groups such as the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) and other Islamist terrorist groups, such as al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, Boko Haram, and Al-Shabaab. When the persecution of Christians manages to make its way into the mainstream media, it's usually to cover persecution by one of these groups. And while it's true that these terrorist organizations are responsible for much of the most severe persecution of Christians in Asia and Africa, it's important to realize that the governments of many of our so-called allies are just as guilty.
Open Doors is an organization that publishes its annual watch list of the nations in which Christian persecution is worst. At the top of the list for 2016 is North Korea, the communist nation run by the barbaric Kim Jong-un. He has imprisoned close to 100,000 Christians in labor camps where the conditions are beyond despicable. But North Korea is a kind of aberration. Because it is ruled by one man with total power, it is also a nation in which a change of leadership could bring about radical change in its treatment of Christians. That isn't true of many of the other nations on the Open Doors list.
Once we move past North Korea, the next nine nations among the top ten are all Islamic. See the image below:
To view the complete list of 50 nations, click here, then scroll down: Open Doors World Watch List
Open Doors has also prepared a full report, world map, and reports on the individual countries included on its list. The map -- which you can download as a PDF file -- provides a nice visual of places throughout the world where Christians are most unwelcome. Click here. to see the list of all downloadable files.
One of our supposed closest allies, Saudi Arabia, is #14 on the list. Famous (or infamous) for its religious police, the Kingdom prohibits any form of public Christian worship, and many Christian immigrant workers, imported from places such as the Philippines, suffer greatly under the heavy hand of sharia law. Interestingly, conversions to Christianity, particularly among the youth, are growing in Saudi Arabia due largely to the Internet.
#11 on the list is Yemen, a country where Christians suffer great persecution. Just this past week four of Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity nuns were murdered, along with 12 others, in Aden where they ran a nursing home for the elderly. Speaking of this tragedy, Pope Francis said:
“These are the martyrs of today! They are not on the front page of newspapers; they are not news. They are the people who give blood for the Church. These people are the victims of those who have murdered them but also of the indifference, of this global indifference of those who do not care.”Such is the level of hatred by the persecutors, and the level of indifference by the once-Christian nations of the West.
Some Western Christians might be surprised to find India relatively high on the list (#17), but the persecution of Christians has increased dramatically since the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power a few years ago. The party actively supports the radical Hindus who have been responsible for the severe persecution of Christians. No longer can India bill itself as the world's largest democracy when its government openly sanctions the persecution of religious minorities.
The Knights of Columbus, working in partnership with the group, In Defense of Christians, has prepared a comprehensive report on the persecution of Christians in the Middle East. You can download a copy of this report here: Genocide Against Christians in the Middle East.
Just to give you a sense of the nature of this persecution, read the words of Mark Arabo, a California businessman and Chaldean-American leader. Speaking to CNN's Jonathan Mann, Arabo called what's happening in Iraq a "Christian genocide" and said "children are being beheaded, mothers are being raped and killed, and fathers are being hanged."
"They are systematically beheading children, and mothers and fathers. The world hasn't seen an evil like this for generations. There's a park in Mosul where they actually beheaded children and put their heads on a stick...this is a crime against humanity. They are doing the most horrendous, the most heartbreaking crimes that you can think of."Take a moment to sign the Knights of Columbus' petition which will be sent to Secretary of State John Kerry. The petition asks that the United States government declare what's happening to Christians in the Middle East a genocide. Here's a direct link to the petition: Stop the Christian Genocide.
Pray for our Christian brothers and sisters throughout the world who suffer persecution simply because they keep the faith.