Afghanistan tops Open Doors watchlist of worst countries for Christians
(RNS) – Afghanistan is the most dangerous country for Christians, according to an annual list compiled by Christian watchdog group Open Doors USA. This is the first time in two decades that North Korea has not topped the list.
Open Doors said the Taliban takeover of the Afghan government in mid-August forced many Afghan Christians – most of whom are converts from Islam – into hiding.
“This has been a game-changer not only for women and ethnic minorities, but also for religious minorities, including Christian converts, who are considered apostates,” said the organization’s annual report, released on Wednesday 19 January. “With the Taliban’s grip on power growing stronger and spreading to more and more districts, the situation for Christian converts is becoming increasingly difficult.”
Overall, no new countries appeared in the top 10 most dangerous countries for Christians according to Open Doors. Afghanistan was second on the list last year.
North Korea is now ranked second, although its persecution score has risen slightly, in part due to an increase in arrests of Christians and closures of house churches. The country also passed a new law against “reactionary thought” that excludes the Bible from “materials published abroad.”
“They’re the same in North Korea and Afghanistan until you get to the violence, and this year the violence has been more dramatic in Afghanistan,” Open Doors USA President David Curry said. during an online press conference.
Around the world, Open Doors found that there has been a 24% increase in the number of Christians killed because of their faith, from 4,761 cited in its report last year to 5,898 this year.
Nigeria, for the second consecutive year, has been named the country where Christians are most subjected to violence. He was cited for 79% of the recorded murders, or 4,650.
The number of churches attacked worldwide also increased to 5,110 in 2022 from 4,488 the previous year.
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The watchdog said its findings indicate that more than 360 million Christians around the world – or 1 in 7 members of the Christian faith – suffer from high levels of discrimination and persecution. Curry called Christian women in particular “the most vulnerable group in the world today” in light of their “appalling treatment” in extremist Islamic societies.
Open Doors has worked for more than six decades to help persecuted Christians in over fifty countries.
The World Watch List 2022 is based on a reporting period from November 2020 to September 2021.
The full top 10 list is:
- 1. Afghanistan
- 2. North Korea
- 3. Somalia
- 4. Libya
- 5. Yemen
- 6. Eritrea
- 7. Nigeria
- 10. India
Last year, Open Doors reported that governments and extremists were using the COVID-19 pandemic as justification for persecution. For example, in India, the watchdog reported that 80% of Christians in India who received pandemic aid from its partner organizations said they had been turned away from other food distribution points because of their faith.
The new report found China to be among countries where COVID-19 restrictions have been used to tighten surveillance and control of worship services and religious minorities.
Curry applauded the Biden administration’s diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics which begin in China on Feb. 4, due to human rights abuses in the country, including the reported imprisonment of more than a million Uyghur Muslims and other minorities.
“I’m suggesting that people don’t watch the Olympics, take part in them like they normally would,” he said. “The communist government wants the attention and the revenue from these Olympics and I think people should just pass by, especially the believers.”
A number of countries on Open Doors’ watch list — China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan — are on the Department’s list of “countries of particular concern” or CPCs. ‘State.
Another watchdog, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, recommended in April that Afghanistan be placed on the State Department‘s second-tier “special watch list,” but the State Department has not did not include the predominantly Muslim country when it announced its appointments in November.
Curry urged the State Department to return Nigeria to its CPC list, saying “Open Doors’ research is compelling evidence that human rights abuses in Nigeria must be acknowledged.”
This story has been updated.
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