WASHINGTON – North Korea again tops the list of the 50 most dangerous countries to follow Jesus Christ. The 2019 World Watch List released Wednesday by Open Doors USA highlights where action is desperately needed to protect Christians.
President Trump has met with many of the leaders whose countries make the list, including China, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, and North Korea. The Trump administration has made religious freedom a priority. Case in point – fighting for the release of Pastor Andrew Brunson from Turkey. But there's more the US government can do and that's the backbone behind this list.
The spread of radical Islam increases the danger for Christians worldwide. "Many Christians are being killed because of their faith," said Father Daniel Alkhory, an Iraqi native.
Alkhory preaches to nearly 200 families in Iraq where he faces intense persecution by Al-Qaeda.
CBN News asked Alkhory why he stays while other priests have left due to safety concerns.
"I'm staying to stay with my people," he responded. "So this is the only thing that is keeping me staying there and helping them because they need help now urgently. So if I am not going to be there who is going to help them?"
Iraq is number 13 on the watch list of countries where Christians face the most persecution. For the last 27 years, Open Doors USA has documented the most oppressive and restrictive countries for Christians. Topping this year's list is North Korea followed by Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, and Pakistan.
Top 10 Countries Where Christians are Persecuted
1. North Korea
"We believe now based on our research that there are over 245 million Christians who live in areas of extreme or high persecution – that's a lot," David Curry, president & CEO of Open Doors USA told CBN News.
Curry adds that violence against Christians increased dramatically this past year in China.
"They moved up from #41 to #27 on the list," he told CBN News. "That's a big jump. It's a huge jump and it shows things are getting more difficult for China and it's a big church so a lot of people are affected."
North Korea remains number one for the 18th year in a row, despite talks between President Trump and Dictator Kim Jong Un.
"I would love to see human rights be a part of the discussion when you are talking about nuclear arms because you can tell within 30, 60, 90 days if conditions have improved for Christians in the labor camps," Curry explained. "Right now, there are over 60,000 Christians in labor camps in North Korea. A lot of people don't know that."
Vice President Mike Pence reaffirmed that the White House will always be a champion for people of faith.
"Protecting and promoting religious freedom is a foreign policy priority of this administration," Pence said.
Open Doors continues its efforts hoping governments, human rights groups, and other organizations will take notice, get involved and help believers.
For example, Bahrain dropped off the list this year after meeting with Christian leaders to set up a safe space for people to worship. Curry says it's a role model in the Middle East.
Watch Below: Open Doors reveals world's worst persecutors in exclusive LIVE stream on CBN News Facebook: