Afghanistan is now the worst nation in the world for Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA, an organization that tracks global religious maltreatment.
The shocking development is undoubtedly the “biggest seismic shift” in decades, as North Korea, the reclusive and oppressive East Asian country, was bumped from the top spot it had occupied for 20 years.
“This year’s 2022 World Watch List, we think, is the biggest seismic shift in over 20 years because Afghanistan is now the No. 1 country on the World Watch List, supplanting North Korea,” Open Doors USA CEO David Curry told Faithwire.
The Dire Situation in Afghanistan
Afghanistan has long been embroiled in chaos, but the situation devolved further when the U.S. undertook a chaotic withdrawal last August — a retreat that carried with it serious consequences.
“Many people are aware of what’s happened since August in Afghanistan,” Curry said, citing the chaos and uncertainty. “It has emboldened Islamic extremists in other parts of the world. We believe it’s going to have a ripple effect.”
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Christians in Afghanistan face intensifying persecution at the hands of the resurgent Taliban, with militants purportedly arresting and possibly seeking to kill believers. Christians and Christian women, in particular, are especially vulnerable and are seen as ideological enemies.
“They are going to be targeted,” Curry said.
North Korea’s Continued Christian Persecution
Though dethroned as the top stronghold of persecution, North Korea still occupies the second spot, and there’s no sign the chaos and targeted hatred perpetuated by leader Kim Jong-un and his restrictive government will dissipate.
“For 20 years, North Korea was number one. They have a post-communist … system that has been generational,” Curry said. “They have lifted now Kim Jung Un as the dictator. People are forced to worship him.”
He continued, “It’s clear that they don’t want any other faith except the worship of their leader and the communist system…they control all the means of life.”
Government control persists over necessities like food and medical care. This systematic control has led to mass starvation for the general populace. Christians are many times the last people to get food and are sometimes put in labor camps or relegated to remote areas because of their faith in Jesus.
Curry said the “2022 World Watch List” shows, from a large scale, the “strength of extremism around the world.”
“When you look at the top 10 countries, places like Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, you have even India [which is] number 10,” he said. “These are there on the ‘World Watch List’ because these countries have extremist groups, which are either running the government or are influencing the government and culture in these countries in such a way that it is not safe to practice your faith.”
China’s Concerning Control
China is also a major player on the “World Watch List,” though the nation ranks 17th. Despite not being in the top 10, Curry explained why the Chinese government’s actions should be deeply concerning.
“Their system and their technology is the greatest threat right now overall in the future of religious expression,” he said, likening the methodical restrictions to a “high tech noose around the neck of expression of faith.”
Curry said the Chinese government has hampered the efforts of almost every church, forcing houses of worship to break into groups and to shut down. Christians are at risk of losing jobs, having travel restricted, and “even worse.”
“They have artificial intelligence. They monitor all the video, they monitor the online presence,” he said. “They just have the ability technologically.”
Looking at the diverse forms of persecution that exist, Curry noted that there is a “two-front war” against Christianity that can be observed on the “World Watch List.” On one side, there are the tribal-led government forces like the Taliban and on the other are centralized and tech-savvy governments like what is seen in China.
Read the “World Watch List” for yourself here.
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