Open Doors released its 2023 World Watch list this week, and North Korea has returned to the top spot as the world's worst persecutor of Christians. Worldwide, Christians are now facing more persecution or discrimination than ever.
Although fewer Christians died for their faith in Christ last year, Christian persecution is increasing to the highest level ever reported.
According to Open Doors, a ministry to the persecuted church, one in seven Christians worldwide now experience high levels of persecution or discrimination.
"Part of the reason it is getting worse is because it is getting worse in more places. Particularly this year, we see the spread of Christian persecution in sub-Saharan Africa," explained Linda Pearce, Open Doors U.S. interim CEO.
Of the ten countries where Christians experience the most persecution, seven are in countries like Somalia, Sudan, and Eritrea.
But this year, North Korea earned the top spot as the worst country offender. In 2020 the communist regime passed a new "thought law" increasing punishments for consuming western radio and TV broadcasts and Christian literature.
"In fact, in 2020, with the anti-reaction thought laws that were introduced in North Korea, we see that just legitimizing further consistent persecution of Christians in that nation, but honestly, it's just hard for it to get worse than it is today," Pearce insisted.
Last year, Afghanistan ranked first on the Open Doors World Watch list after U.S. troops withdrew from the country in 2021. This year, Afghanistan is ranked number nine.
"The Christians that remain have gone deep underground so there are fewer Christians remaining and fewer of them are willing to raise their heads and be seen," Pearce revealed.
Among other countries of concern? India, China, and Nigeria. That West African country ranks at number six.
Just last week, assailants set the home of Roman Catholic priest Isaac Achi on fire, burning him to death.
President Biden removed Nigeria from the U.S. list of countries of particular concern after the Trump administration gave the nation that designation in late 2020.
"There is clear evidence that there is persecution of Christians because of their faith. We would urge them to put Nigeria back on that list of countries of particular concern," said Pearce.
Open Doors is asking that people contact members of Congress about Nigeria and other countries to get involved in helping the persecuted church and to pray daily for suffering Christians worldwide.
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