For a moment, imagine knowing you are being watched; imagine passing through facial recognition technology or fingerprint scanning to enter your church.
Imagine living in a country whose leaders are creating a “persecution roadmap” for the world to follow, as described by David Curry, president of Open Doors USA, an advocacy organization tracking Christian persecution around the world.
It might sound like a scene out of a dystopian George Orwell novel or like the plot of an unsettling episode of Netflix’s “Black Mirror,” but it’s not; it’s the day-to-day reality faced by the nearly 100 million believers in China.
“The heart of the issue around China is what I have called this ‘blueprint for persecution’ that they are building, the systems to oppress massive amounts of people and their religious expression,” Curry said Wednesday during a press conference in Washington, D.C., referencing the facial recognition and fingerprint technology many Chinese Christians now pass through to enter their churches as well as the social credit system that takes away rights from citizens with bad behavior.
As such, the focus of this year’s report is the “rise of the surveillance state,” and China is leading the way, though the country ranks as No. 23 on the newly released World Watch List, which compiles the top 50 nations around the globe where Christians face violent and oppressive persecution.
In the countries on the World Watch List, 260 million Christians have faced “high levels of persecution” — a 6 percent increase from last year.
The top 10 countries on the list are:
- North Korea
This is the 18th year, it should be noted, North Korea has topped the World Watch List because the restrictive nation controls every aspect of its citizens’ lives.
Moving forward, Curry said it’s important for the U.S. government to partner with nations whose leaders we have “strong relationships with” because “friends don’t let friends commit human rights abuses.”
“We have to have a perspective that our partners are going to have a level playing field for their citizens,” he added. Curry also noted it’s hard for him to imagine “normalized relationships” with places like China until the persecution of religious minorities is addressed.
A big part of the goal with the World Watch List, Curry told Faithwire, is to help individual citizens as well as government officials “understand how widespread” religious persecution “has become.”
Curry urged the federal government to link discussions over religious oppression and persecution with other diplomatic negotiations, mentioning the “phase 1” trade deal expected to be signed Wednesday by Beijing and the White House.
“We’re going to have to begin to tie these kinds of discussions together — transparency and human rights with doing business with the United States,” he said. “It’s up to us as citizens to let our voices be heard.”
In the meantime, though, Curry emphasized the importance of daily prayer for the Christians facing persecution in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East because it’s “up across the board,” though deaths are slightly decreased.
“We are reporting fewer Christians killed for their faith this year — 2,983 that we could document,” Curry said, though much of that is unfortunately due to the fact extremists have “shifted tactics” from murdering to taking hostages and committing sexual assaults, particularly in Nigeria, which is perhaps the deadliest place in the world for Christians.
“We’re glad to see those lives spared,” he added, “but the traumas are deepening in some of the other areas.”