A dozen more countries have been added to the list of areas where Christians experience high persecution, according to Open Doors International.
The latest survey by the persecution watchdog shows one in nine Christians globally experience “high” levels of persecution, as compared to one in 12 the previous year. It is worst across Asia and the Middle East, where one in three Christians experience “high” levels of persecution.
Open Doors also warns that new laws in China and Vietnam are part of an effort to control all religious expression. In China, the wave of persecution is as high as that experienced during the cultural revolution of Mao Zedong in the 1970s. Many churches have been forced to close down, crosses have been removed from a number of buildings and some believers have been sent to “re-education camps”.
The annual ranking of religious persecution in 50 countries indicates that at least 245 million Christians in 73 countries experience high levels of persecution – up from 215 million in 58 countries in the previous year. The sources of persecution vary from government and nationalist crackdowns to Hindu and Islamic attacks.
North Korea remains the world’s worst persecution hotspot, as it has been every year since 2002. Persecution rose in Myanmar – it is now up to 18th position from 24th – and Indonesia rises to 30 from 38th position last year, mainly due to suicide bombing attacks against churches. China moved up 16 positions to number 27.