WASHINGTON (CBS DC) – The annual “Open Doors World Watch List” survey of Christian religious liberty finds that 2012 was a very hostile year of persecution for more than 100 million Christians worldwide.
According to the worldwide report from the non-denominational Christian support group, about 100 million Christians are persecuted around the world, with conditions deteriorating for them most rapidly in Syria and Ethiopia. North Korea topped the survey as the “most nightmarish state” to practice Christianity.
The 2013 report also highlighted the most significant persecution trend of this past year as the rise of Islamism in each country that felt the effects of the Arab Spring.
“There are over 65 countries where Christians are persecuted,” said the report released on Tuesday by Open Doors.
Open Doors began in the 1950s by smuggling Bibles into communist states and now work in more than 60 countries, Reuters reports.
All but one of the 50 countries on the list – Colombia, which ranked 46th – were in Africa, Asia or the Middle East. North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan were listed as the three toughest countries for Christians last year. They also topped the 50-country ranking in 2011.
Syria jumped from 36th to 11th place on the list as its Christian minority, first suspected by rebels of close ties to the Assad government, has increasingly become a target for radical Islamist fighters, the report said. Mali came from no listing for 2011 to 7th place because the sharia rule the Islamist Ansar Dine group imposed on the north of the country not only brought harsh punishments for the Muslim majority, but also drove the tiny Christian minority.
The report stated that not all the trends they studied were negative. In the Far East, with the exception of North Korea, the communist states have all “marginally improved” their treatment of Christians. Laos, Vietnam and China have all moved down the list.
The group’s website states that it measures the degree of freedom of a Christian to live out their faith in five areas of life – private, family, community, congregation and national life, and a sixth element that measures the degree of violence.