When Open Doors USA, a persecution watchdog group, predicated in last year’s annual World Watch List that 2015 would likely prove to be even worse for Christians around the world, they were absolutely right.
And now, the numbers confirm it.
The survey found that more than 7,100 Christians were killed last year for “faith-related reasons,” which is 3,000 more than 2014. The group obtained the number based on analysis of media reports, external experts, and other public information.
“Christian persecution not only increased [in 2015], but expanded into areas where there was not the same level of persecution in the previous year,” the report states.
The two new countries that made the top 50 list of the most dangerous places to be a Christian are Bahrain and Niger, coming in at No. 48 and No. 49, respectively.
For the 14th consecutive year, the list is topped by North Korea, where Christianity is considered “opium for the people,” “deeply Western,” and “despicable.”
“Christians try to hide their faith as far as possible to avoid arrest and being sent to a labor camp,” the report says of North Korea, noting that between 50,000-70,000 Christians are imprisoned in labor camps there. “Thus, being Christian has to be a well-protected secret, even within families, and most parents refrain from introducing their children to the Christian faith in order to make sure that nothing slips their tongue when they are asked.”
Speaking at the National Press Club last week, David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors, said he hopes the list will shine light on the plight of Christians worldwide as they face a “total lack of religious freedom,” forced migration, and even genocide.
Part of the reason for the list, he continued, was to bring attention in the U.S. to the persecution of Christians by our “geopolitical allies,” like Saudi Arabia and India—both of which rank in the top 50 list of Christian persecutors.
"We believe in religious freedom for all," Curry said, "and that does not happen in countries that we do business with every day."
Here's a look at the top 10 list. More information on the entire World Watch List is available here.