The UK Government must do everything possible to stem the rapid rise of global persecution against Christians, a charity has urged after releasing a new watch list of the world’s worst countries.
The 2016 list from Open Doors reveals that persecution levels are worse than in previous years, with widespread systematic religious cleansing across Africa and the Middle East.
Open Doors uses a point system for the watch list, and CEO Lisa Pearce noted that this year “a country had to score 50 per cent more points than in 2013 to even make it onto the list”.
“This is a cause of great concern”, Pearce said.
The watch list was officially launched at the House of Commons yesterday, with over 100 Parliamentarians in attendance.
Topping the list is North Korea, which remains the worst country for treatment of Christians – around 70,000 Christians are estimated to be imprisoned in labour camps, while those who worship in secret risk being killed if they are discovered.
Iraq follows in second place, and Eritrea, nicknamed the ‘North Korea of Africa’, came in third.
The biggest rises in persecution have been seen in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan and Eritrea, and the number of refugees from Afghanistan and Eritrea has increased significantly.
Open Doors highlighted the rise in Islamic fundamentalism, which is at its most extreme and increasing most rapidly in sub-Saharan Africa.
Islamist extremism is also forcing millions to flee their homes in the Middle East, after violent killings, hostage-taking and violence against women and children.
Lisa Pearce commented: “The persecution of Christians is getting worse, in every region in which we work – and it’s getting worse fast.
“The trend is stark, as are the consequences for real people – we should not expect that to change unless we are part of changing the situation.
“As a key voice within the international community and a generous provider of aid to a number of the countries on the 2016 World Watch List, I urge our government to do everything possible within their spheres of influence to affect what happens next. We will not get these days back”, she added.
The Christian Institute released a new briefing in November, highlighting the global harassment, intimidation and violence that Christians face at the hands of extremists, both religious and non-religious.
The briefing called for the Government’s counter-extremism policy “to recognise that Christians are the victims and not the perpetrators of extremism”.
In August last year, an investigation by The Daily Telegraph revealed that the UK Government is handing over billions of pounds in taxpayers’ money to countries where Christians are suffering some of the worst persecution in the world.
It was found that four in five countries on a previous Open Doors watch list received £2.7 billion in overseas aid in 2013.