While the torturous totalitarian regime regularly features at the top of the terrifying list, Open Doors gave a new stark warning for Christians in South East Asia, which they named the “next emerging perception hotbed”.
North Korea has topped Open Doors’ yearly list of worst states for the 16th year running with Saudi Arabia and Somalia the only two other states to have been ranked first during the 26 years Open Doors has been creating the list.
The Open Doors report said: “North Korea remains the most dangerous place in the world to be a Christian. Believers are forced to worship in secret – if they are discovered they are taken to labour camps.
“Christians who are discovered are sent back to North Korean camps where they face appalling conditions and are subject to torture, and many die.”
The majority of nations at the top of the list are in the Middle East or North Africa, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Iraq, Yemen and Iran. Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea and India complete the top 10.
Egypt is another fast-riser on the list, which analyses threats of violence, private life, family, community, national circumstances and church life.
Open Doors said: “In 2017 there were several horrific violent incidents across Egypt: at Easter, 49 people were killed in two church bombings; in May, Islamic extremists attacked people travelling to a monastery in Upper Egypt – killing 29.
“In Minya governorate alone, over 15 girls have been kidnapped in the last year with the aim of forcing them to marry a Muslim husband and convert to Islam. It is not possible to change your religion from Islam to Christianity on your identity card in Egypt.”
This difficulty to convert, and the highly-public nature of religion in the country, was further highlighted by Open Doors UK and Ireland CEO Lisa Pearce.
“In Egypt, as in many other Middle Eastern countries, your religion is stated on your identity card. This makes discrimination and persecution easy – you are overlooked for jobs, planning permits are hard to obtain and you are a target when you go to church.”
Turkey, too, was singled out as a particularly bad place to be a Christian. Bordering Europe, the country ranked 31st after a year marked by civil rights crackdowns.
Open Doors warned: “Violence perpetrated by Islamic extremists is raising levels of fear and intimidation, and the overspill of Islamic terrorists driven out of Iraq and Syria has heralded an increase in the level of threat in Egypt and Turkey.
Africa was also highlighted due to the growing threat of Islamic extremism in the regions, with Christians in Nigeria threatened by “extreme levels” of violence.
Open Doors said: “Islamic extremists killed more than 2,000 Christians last year. Rapes were numerous – more than 500 women were raped or sexually abused last year. Rape is used as a weapon of war by Islamic extremists in Northern Nigeria.”
Open Doors said: “Christians here are considered to be agents of the West and a threat to state and government. Last year 375 Christians were arrested, sentenced or imprisoned and 385 were physically or mentally abused.
“A 2017 government crackdown on Christians resulted in more arrests, confiscation of Christian materials, damage to churches and imprisonments.”