“Worldwide Christian persecution continues to grow, in absolute terms. More than 215 million Christians worldwide face high levels of persecution.” It’s the first figure released by the World Watch List 2018, the annual Report of the international association Open Doors, actively engaged in 25 Countries to support Christians of all denominations victims of violence and persecution on religious grounds. It’s the annual ranking of the 50 countries where Christians are most persecuted, namely, where they are subjected to ill-treatment as “individuals or groups of people as a result of their faith in Jesus” ranging from cultural and social discrimination, family disavowal, job and income loss, to physical abuse, torture, kidnapping, mutilation, destruction of property, imprisonment, murder. The Countries are divided into three groups and ranked according to the “degree of persecution” on a scale of 0-100 points: high (41 to 60), very high (61-80), extreme (81-100). WWL ranks Countries according to the final score determined by summing up the scores of six categories: private sphere, family, community, church, public life and violence.
The highest scores in this sad list were registered in North Korea and Afghanistan.
However, Somalia, Sudan, Pakistan, Eritrea, Libya, Iraq, Yemen and Iran are in the top ten. Pakistan saw the most violence recorded against Christians. European countries in the list include Turkey, which ranks 31st, and Azerbaijan, 45th. Colombia and Mexico are the only Countries in the American continent. Escalating intolerance was registered in Libya and in India, where surging Hindu religious fundamentalism has led to acts of violence against over 24 thousand Indian Christians. Over the past months the situation worsened also in Nepal (ranking 25th this year for the first time), and in Azerbaijan.
According to the Report, 3,066 Christians have been killed because of their faith, 15,540 Christian buildings have been attacked (churches, private houses and shops) in the period 11.11.2016 – 10.31.2017.
Anti-Christian persecution extends well beyond these figures: 1,922 Christians have been jailed without trial, 1,252 Christians were kidnapped; there were over 1,000 rapes, as well as 1,240 forced marriages; 33,255 Christians were “physically or mentally abused.” So many lives have been “devastated because of their faith”, pointed out Cristian Nani, the director of Open Doors, who added: “these figures should unfortunately be viewed only as a baseline, since the undisclosed reality of unreported acts of violence or crimes against Christians in many Countries is potentially of huge proportions.” According to Open Doors there are 81.14 million persecuted Christians in Africa (38%), 113,31 million (53%) in Asia and in the Middle East, 20,05 million in Latin America (9%), 11.800 (0,01%) in the rest of the world.
“Islamic extremism remains the global, dominant driver of persecution, extending its grip across a number of countries” states the World Watch List 2018 Report. “Religious nationalism as a prevailing cause of persecutions against Christians (and other minority groups)” has equally surged, and India is one sad example. “Social intolerance and political exploitation of this form of intolerance are the venom of this historical period”, remarked Mr. Nani. “The growing Islamist movement is increasingly threatening Christians and other non-Muslim communities in many parts of the world,” states the report which identifies five worrying trends in this area: “radicalization of areas dominated by Islam”, in Africa and in the non-Arab Asian Muslim world; “the Sunni-Shiite divide” with clashes especially in the Middle East and Asia; Islamic expansionism in areas with non-Muslim majority populations (especially in sub-Saharan Africa, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei); the simultaneous Islamic radicalization and expansionism, with the main case of Nigeria and ethnic cleansing based on religious affiliation, evidently growing in some African states such as the northeast of Kenya, of Nigeria, Somalia and Sudan.
Christians in Asia are the victims of “religious nationalism”, described as a “tsunami” that is “swarming across the continent leaving destruction and, sometimes, death in its wake.” India is the most worrying case, followed by Nepal.
Similar trends were registered in Buddhist Countries, marked by “forms of persecution expressed in different – albeit surging and more devious – forms”: it’s the case of Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Myanmar. In China, Vietnam and Laos, where “communist ideology is resurging” Christian life suffers “the impact of ideological nationalisms.” The Report acknowledges “dictatorial paranoia” as a main source of persecution in countries such as North Korea and Eritrea; Christians in Mexico and Colombia are the victims of “corruption and organized crime coupled by ethnic antagonism.” The “Good news” relayed in the Report is the slight improvement of the situation in Kenya and Ethiopia along with the “considerable drop in targeted acts of violence against Christians” in Syria, primarily due to the decline of ISIS control.