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The stoning of Stephen

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Persecution Watch
List of Top 50 Christian Persecution Countries

For the first time, North Korea has replaced Saudi Arabia as the country where Christians are most severely persecuted, according to the "World Watch List" released on August 12 by Open Doors.

The semi-annual World Watch List ranks countries according to the level of persecution Christians face for following Jesus Christ.

For years, Saudi Arabia has held the top spot on the list. The desert kingdom, which sees itself as the guardian of Islam and its sacred cities of Mecca and Medina, requires all its citizens to be Muslims. A Saudi who converts to another religion faces the death penalty for apostasy.

But growing evidence of severe oppression in North Korea has confirmed what many observers have believed for years, that the communist dictatorship of Kim Jong Il stops at nothing to eradicate all belief systems other than the worship of Kim himself and his deceased father, Kim Il Sung. Both father and son have made every attempt to purge the land of Christians.

Nevertheless, the church has survived in North Korea. Christian refugees escaping North Korea's devastating famine have told of small house churches in country. They rarely number more than 10 individuals, often including only family members for security precautions. One refugee told of how a house church of 20-30 people simply disappeared in 2000.

Saudi Arabia has had the dubious label of being ranked as the most difficult country in the world in which to be a Christian, arrests by the religious police, torture, imprisonment, deportation for foreign workers and death for nationals who convert to Christianity has led to Saudi Arabia's number one ranking as the most repressive country.

Imagine how nearly impossible it is for Christians to survive, and the Christian faith to grow in North Korea as it takes over first place of countries repressing the free expression of Christianity. And yet, despite its cruel punishment and death to believers, indications are that the Church in North Korea continues to grow despite the best efforts of the government to destroy the Church.

Ranked third on the list is the Southeast Asian nation of Laos, where government authorities accuse Christians of causing religious division. Officials make every effort to tightly control Christian activities, including holding indoctrination classes to re-educate believers.

Vietnam, Turkmenistan, Maldives, Bhutan, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Somalia round out the top ten, listed respectively in order of their ranking. Six of the top ten countries are governed by Islamic regimes. One - Bhutan - is predominately Buddhist, and three - Laos, Vietnam and Turkmenistan - are communist-ruled.

Included on the list, from Numbers 11-25, are: Iran, China, Sudan (government controlled areas), Myanmar (Burma), Egypt, Azerbaijan, Nigeria (North), Yemen, Comoros, Colombia, Cuba, Uzbekistan, Qatar, Brunei and Morocco. China is home to possibly the world's largest number of Christians, numbering between 60-90 million with an estimated 10,000-25,000 converts a day.

Numbers 26-50: Tunisia, Iraq, Russian Federation (the Muslim republics of Chechnya, Kabardino, Balkarya and Dagestan), Libya, Tajikistan, Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Djibouti, Turkey, Mexico (State of Chiapas), United Arab Emirates, Nepal, Kurdistan, Oman, Mauritania, Algeria, Malaysia, Syria, Bahrain, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kuwait, Kenya (Northeast) and Belarus.

From World Watch List

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© 1999 The Old Time Gospel Ministry
"When to seek God has become life and to glorify God has become self, then you have truly found God."