Christian persecution once again rose across the globe in 2016, with around 215 million Christians experiencing extreme or high levels of persecution, according to the 2017 World Watch List.
The report, which is produced annually by watchdog Open Doors USA, found that, for the third year in a row, the worldwide persecution problem has worsened, rising to “unprecedented levels” in countries located in South and Southeast Asia, among other locations. The World Watch List ranks the 50 countries across the globe where it is the most difficult to be a Christian.
The release of the dire rankings comes as President Barack Obama prepares to vacate the White House, with president-elect Donald Trump slated to take the reigns of power after his Jan. 20 inauguration. David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors USA, told Faithwire on Tuesday that he believes Christian persecution is going to be a central issue for Trump to confront.
“I think (it will be) the greatest challenge to the Trump administration,” he warned. “(You can) look at this data and see that the major issues they’re going to face are greatly cross referenced with this World Watch List. The great issues of the day are going to revolve around religious liberty.”
As for Obama’s handling of the persecution crisis in the Middle East and beyond, Curry was candid: “The Obama administration failed in regards to Christians and freedom of religion.”
This year’s World Watch List paints a dire picture of the persecution crisis across the globe, with the five worst countries for Christians ranking in order (starting with the worst) as follows: North Korea, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sudan. Syria and Iraq — the focal point of headlines in recent years — came in at number six and seven, respectively, though it seems some of the other countries that ticked up on the list are of graver concern, according to Curry.
See a list of the top 20 countries below:
“One of the most surprising points in the World Watch List was the jump of violence in India over the past reporting period,” he said, stating that Hindu extremism has gone unchecked of late. “We have a large population of people in India who practice the Christian faith.”
Overall, Curry said this year’s list, which is based on grassroots, on-the-ground data collected from 50 countries, is “the worst on record,” noting that the 215 million Christians who find themselves living in tough locations account for around 1 in every 12 Christians around the world. With that in mind, he’s hoping Trump and other opinion makers will pay close attention to the report.
“It’s so vital for governments and the administration that aren’t at the grassroots level to find out what’s happening inside those countries,” Curry said.
You can find out more about the World Watch List and the methodology used for collecting data here.
Other watchdogs use different methodologies to document persecution, with International Christian Concern recently listing the U.S. in its “2016 Hall of Shame” report, mentioning both private and government actions that have caused concern and alarm for the persecution watchdog; Open Doors USA did not include the U.S. in its report.
The document alleges that American Christians are “being marginalized through the law,” detailing a number of concerning cases that have emerged in recent years. The text reads, in part, “From the case of a Christian football coach suspended for praying at the 50-yard line, to Christian business owners forced to pay a $135,000 fine for declining to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding, the number of troubling cases directed towards Christians has exploded.”
Rather than a top 50 ranking, International Christian Concern chose to organize countries into three groups, differentiating the persecution level it sees in the U.S. from the more dire and deadly forms that unfold around the world. Jeff King, president of International Christian Concern, explained: “While conditions in the U.S. are in no way comparable to other countries on the list, a certain segment of the culture and the courts seem to be intent on driving faith out of the public square. There have been too many court cases with bad decisions to miss the clear trend line.”
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