NOS Nieuws•vandaag, 09:37
Worldwide, Christians are still persecuted at an alarming rate. This is what the international organization Open Doors, founded in the Netherlands, says in its annual report.
In 1993, Open Doors counted 40 countries where Christians faced severe to extreme persecution. Last year this applied to 76 countries. Christians face kidnapping, assault, rape and forced marriage.
According to Open Doors, the number of Christians killed for their faith has decreased slightly over the past year. Last year there were more than 5600 deaths, a year earlier there were almost 5900.
The organization, which stands up worldwide for Christians who are persecuted for their faith, has a ranking of fifty countries where Christian persecution is most common. According to director Maarten Dees, the increase in violence and persecution is due to the influence of governments.
“We often see that when an authoritarian or paranoid regime is in power, it tries to push away everything that doesn’t fit in,” he says in the NOS Radio 1 Journaal. North Korea ranks first. That country tops the list almost every year.
He also sees things going wrong with failing governments. “If there is a social, political or societal vacuum, it is often a very good breeding ground for radical groups to proclaim their ideas and also force them on the population.” Open Doors sees this especially in countries south of the Sahara.
The organization is also concerned about China. According to Dees, it has been clear for a few years now that the country is “working on digital means to control people. We see that Christians and dissenters are carefully monitored and their doings are recorded,” he says.
Dees argues that China is redefining the concept of human rights. “There is no focus on freedom of expression and freedom of religion. But the country talks about stability and security and then suddenly they become concepts that are very easy to manipulate by the government.”
But conditions for Christians are also deteriorating in countries in Latin America. In Nicaragua, Cuba and Colombia, the religious group is having a hard time, according to Open Doors. This is partly due to corruption, crime gangs and ethnic leaders who are dismissive of Christians who do not participate in local religious traditions.
The organization is also concerned about the decline in the number of Christians in the Middle East. Causes of the decrease are discrimination and poor economic prospects. And Muslims who have converted are in danger of being imprisoned, exiled, tortured or killed.
At the same time, tolerance towards Christians is growing in a number of Arab countries. In Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, the organization sees more religious freedom. There is also more action against radical Islamic groups that sow hate against Christians.
Open Doors does add a comment: “Freedom of movement must remain ‘within a moderate Islamic framework’.”
Less violence in Afghanistan
A notable faller on the list is Afghanistan. That country was in first place last year, now in ninth place. According to Dees, that country topped the list last year because at that time the Taliban took over power. “A great many Christians were then killed or chased out,” he says.
Dees states that since then “there has been a bit more calm”. According to him, it is no less dangerous for Christians, but they show themselves less for fear of persecution.
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