The key findings in this report are that there continues to be an increase in the persecution of Christians worldwide and that the persecution of Christians is becoming more intense in more countries of the world: the most significant factor for this change is increased persecution in African countries.
Zoe Baldock, Head of Advocacy at Open Doors says “While the report indicates that it is not the only source of persecution, the main engine driving persecution of Christians in 36 of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian is Islamic extremism. Last year we drew the attention of Parliament and the Foreign Office to the new trend of persecution in Africa, including states where Christians are in the majority. This year we reinforce that, emphasising that the most violent region for the persecution of Christians is the African Sahel belt.”
The report also highlights the extent and prevalence of persecution of Christians in failed states, which strongly indicates that freedom of religion or belief is a major casualty of civic and political breakdown – and, indeed, may also be a contributing factor to that breakdown.
North Korea remains the most restrictive country in the world to be a Christian. Like others in that country, Christians have to survive under one of the most oppressive regimes in contemporary times. They have to hide their decision to follow Christ: being caught with a Bible is grounds for execution or a life-long political prison sentence. An estimated 50,000 to 70,000 Christians live in concentration camps, prisons and prison-like circumstances under the regime of leader Kim Jong-Un. This month it was reported that as many as 33 people had been sentenced to death because of their alleged contact with Kim Jung-wook, a South Korean Baptist missionary arrested by North Korean authorities in October on suspicion of trying to establish underground churches. It is possible they have been killed by now.
Open Doors is working in Parliament to highlight the urgent need for progress on freedom of religion or belief in North Korea. On Tuesday 4 March, a packed Parliamentary meeting heard moving testimony about the plight of Christians in North Korea. 38 MPs attended with a further seven sending representatives in response to invitations from Open Doors’ supporters who live in their constituency. "I'm stunned and horrified by what has been shared today," said one MP, "How can we do more to help?" Fiona Bruce MP, who co-chaired the meeting said, "We cannot stay silent. North Korea is in breach of every single declaration of the 1948 human rights bill."
The Open Doors report will be shared widely among policy-makers and church leaders. “Each year, as the World Watch research is published, we want to ensure that people are alert to the realities and trends of persecution,” says Zoe Baldock. “This is one of the ways we can continue to stand with those for whom faith costs the most.”
The full report is available from Open Doors - it can be read and/or downloaded fromhttp://www.opendoorsuk.org/campaign/documents/Freedom_of_Religion_report_2014.pdf;
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