North Korea ranked as most dangerous country for Christians for 17th consecutive year

(Wikimedia Commons/J.A. de Roo)The statues of Kim Il Sung (left) and Kim Jong Il on Mansu Hill in Pyongyang, North Korea.

Persecution watchdog organization Open Doors USA has ranked North Korea on top of the 50 most dangerous countries for Christians for the 17th year in a row.

On Wednesday, Open Doors released the annual World Watch List, which identifies the top 50 nations where Christians are most targeted.

Life in North Korea remains extremely repressive, with an estimated 70,000 Christians believed to be imprisoned in labor camps.

Afghanistan has been ranked as the second most dangerous country, jumping up one place since last year's ranking.

"Afghanistan and North Korea nearly tied," said Open Doors President David Curry, according to CBN News. "Never before have the top two countries been so close in incidents. Both countries are extreme in intolerance and outright persecution of Christians in every area," he added.

The report revealed that a total of 3,066 Christians have been killed last year, while 793 churches were attacked. As many as 215 million Christians across the world are being persecuted for their faith, according to Open Doors.

Curry noted that Islamic extremism remains to be the "dominant driver of persecution, responsible for initiating oppression and conflict in 35 of the 50 countries on the list."

Third on the list was Somalia, where Islam is the state religion and all citizens are expected to be Muslims. The other countries in the top 10 are Sudan, Pakistan, Eritrea, Libya, Iraq, Yemen, and Iran.

India, which saw an increase in persecution of religious minorities due to Hindu nationalism, came in at 11th place, scoring 81 points on the persecution scale. Open Doors said that India's ranking was "one of the fastest and most increases we've seen." The plight of Christians has worsened in India since 2014 when the nation ranked 28th on the list.

According to the report, 23,793 Christians were physically or mentally abused in India last year, more than the numbers abused in all the other countries included on the World Watch List put together.

Nepal was a new addition to the list, coming in at 25th place. The sharp increase in persecution in the country has been attributed to the growing influence of Hindu extremists, who are behind the surge of religious nationalism that is also been seen in neighboring India.

The report also highlighted the sexual harassment of Christian women, noting that each day, "six women are raped, sexually harassed or are forced into marriage to a Muslim under threat of death due to their Christian faith."

"Research for the World Watch List documented 2,260 such incidences against women — and this number only covers those who had the courage to report such an incident, representing only a fraction of those actually raped and harassed in this way," the report said.

Open Doors has documented the most oppressive and restrictive countries for Christians for more than 60 years in an effort to draw attention to the plight of persecuted believers.

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