No prizes for guessing which country tops the World Watch List 2013 for persecution of Christians: North Korea makes its eleventh appearance in a row at no. 1, and should now qualify for a lifetime achievement award. Elsewhere it's mainly about the deteriorating situation in Africa, with Mali a notable new entrant in the top ten:
Persecution of Christians in Africa vastly increased in 2012, according to the Open Doors 2013 World Watch List of 50 countries where Christians face the most severe persecution for their faith.
The number of countries on the African continent sharply increased on the annual list due to the increasing influence of Islam, states Open Doors, an organization that supports persecuted Christians worldwide. Mali is a newcomer on the list and holds the No. 7 position. Tanzania (No. 24), Kenya (No. 40), Uganda (47) and Niger (No. 50) also moved onto the World Watch List and Ethiopia is one of the strongest risers (from No. 38 to No. 15) on the list. In addition, the small African country of Eritrea made the Top 10 for the first time at No. 10. Libya climbed from No. 26 to No. 17.
North Korea is still No. 1 when it comes to persecution of Christians. For the 11th consecutive year, the hermit communist country heads the World Watch List. Possessing a Bible alone can be a reason for a Christian to be executed or sent to a prison camp along with three generations of his or her family. It is estimated that between 50,000 and 70,000 Christians suffer in horrific prison camps. The intense persecution has continued under new leader Kim Jong-Un. The number of defectors to China greatly decreased in 2012 and half of those who try to defect do not make it.
"Nothing much has changed under new North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un,” says Open Doors spokesman Jerry Dykstra. “In fact, persecution of Christians has increased. Reportedly one labor camp alone could hold up to 6,000 Christians.”
Apart from North Korea, the Top 10 on the World Watch List consists of eight countries where extreme Islam poses the largest threat for Christians. They are (from No. 2 to No. 9) Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Maldives, Mali, Iran and Yemen. Worldwide, Open Doors reports an increase in the persecution of Christians....
Of the African countries, Mali is the most noticeable newcomer on the World Watch List due to its sudden emergence to No. 7. The situation in Mali escalated after the coup.
"Mali used to be a model country,” says Dykstra. “The situation in the north used to be a bit tense but Christians and even missionaries could be active. Currently the situation in northern Mali is somewhat similar to Saudi Arabia. Christians are simply no longer allowed to be there.
A pastor from the northern part of Mali told Open Doors that he was informed that Muslim fundamentalists were planning to kill all Christians. He warned all the members of his congregation to leave. That happened. Hundreds of Christians fled from the north to the south of the country or neighboring countries.