Christianity may be one of the most prevalent religions in the world, but there are still many countries where Christian followers are being persecuted, tortured and executed because of their beliefs and followings. Mainstream media in Western Countries often under-reports such incidents, fearing that they would offend non-western cultural ideologies. This article examines the top 10 countries that are unsafe for Christians using evidence compiled by independent media sources and the World Watch List.
Iran’s Constitution defines the country as an Islamic State. The Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has total control of the government through vilayat al-faqih, a term that was first coined by Ruhollah Khomeini. The state holds a monopoly on all Shi’a religious discourse, and those who disagree with the state version of Shi’a Islam do so with fear of being persecuted and incarcerated. Despite this, Iran is still home to Sunni Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Baha’i, and Zoroastrian communities. With the exception of Baha’is, these groups are purportedly protected, but still facing persecution and discrimination. The Iranian Constitution guarantees the rights of protected religious minorities to practice their faith and allots five seats in the Iranian parliament to representatives of recognized minority religions. However minority groups often struggle with entry into universities, encounter a number of barriers in securing employment, and often face discrimination by the police.
In a 2010 speech given by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader warned the citizens of Iran against the “network of house churches” that continue to threaten Islamic faith and deceived young Muslims. In another speech given in Mashad, the Khamenei elaborated on the ways in which he believed that attacks on Islam causes young Muslims to fall away from the “pure” Islamic faith. He also accused Hollywood and America of destroying Islam and the Muslim faith.
The Laotian communist government’s attitude towards Protestant and Hmong Christians is extremely hostile. Lao authorities, along with many citizens in Lao society, see Christianity as an “American Threat”. Christian churches are not permitted to run freely and Christians are restricted to their practices at home. Many Laotian Christian believers also endure extreme pressure from the authorities to abandon their faith and their beliefs in favor of the state religion – Buddhism.
On April 15, 2011, members of the Lao People’s Army detained a group of Hmong Christians. All of the believers’ Bibles were confiscated. The troops proceeded to kill 4 of the women after raping 2 of them. Their husbands and children were brutally beaten, gagged and forced to witness the grisly murders. The absence of free press inside the Communist run country often averts the spread of Laotian news to the outside world. However, one thing is for certain, there is an increasing repression of Christians in Laos and it earns the country a spot on this top 10 list.
Almost 11 years after the Taliban regime was kicked out by international forces, religious freedom remains desolate, especially for minority groups. Despite having signed international agreements to protect the freedom of religion, the current government is not able to secure the most basic tenants of the right. Afghanistan’s apostasy law is still upheld in the country and intrprts th act of leavying Islam as an action punishable by death. If it becomes known that someone has converted to Christianity, he or she will face scrutiny and pressure to reconvert and recant their Christian faiths. Believers also face discrimination by their families and community, as well as local authorities and Muslim clergy, pushing many churches underground as a result.
As a result of escalating persecution, many Christian believers have fled Afghanistan and sought refuge in Western countries, such as Great Britain and Norway. Many of them, however, have been denied refugee status by the UNHCR, forcing them into hiding for fear of being sent back to the repressive home country.
7. Saudi Arabia:
Religious freedom in the Islamic kingdom of Saudi Arabia is absent and anyone found to be practicing public worship immediately faces punishment by death. The majority of Christians in Saudi Arabia are foreign workers who are permitted to worship privately within foreigner compounds. In 2010, 13 Filipino Christians were arrested while attending a service in a private residence. They were verbally charged with ‘blaspheming against Islam” and banned from re-entering Saudi Arabia.
Christians continue to be apprehended and detained for their practices and beliefs and for printing and distributing “illegal” Bibles. Human rights groups are also concerned over an aggressive crackdown on house churches in China, where the faithful are forced to identify their gatherings as patriotic assemblies or sent to prison where they face torture and the death penalty. The number of cases citing government persecution of Christians was up by 42 percent in 2012, amid a three-phase plan to eliminate all home-run churches. This plan now includes having China’s State Administration for Religious Affairs secretly inspect house churches and create files on them.
It is no secret that the Chinese Communist Party curtails many of the rights and freedoms we see in the Western World. Due to its Marxist ideology, the Communist Party simply eradicates those religious institutions that do not support its political agenda or ideology. Only those religious groups that support the Chinese Communist Party are allowed to run freely, and that too is quite debatable amongst scholars. Most religious institutions that run freely are controlled by “puppet” religious leaders who promote the Communist Party and its tenets.
In a country that is 99% Muslim and the vast majority of women are veiled in black, Islamic extreme groups are on the rise and there is very little room for religious freedom. The Yemeni Christian population is virtually in-existent. It is also difficult to detect religious diversity in the country. In most cities, the only visible institution for religious worship is the Mosque and Sharia is the source of all the country’s legislation.
Conversion is fully forbidden for Muslims in Yemen. Yemenis who leave Islam face fear of the death penalty. Muslim Background Believers (MBBs) also face persecution from authorities, family and extremist groups who threaten the ‘apostates’ if they do not revert to Islam. Yemen is very unstable and has worsened since the Arab Spring riots of 2011 and it is unclear whether things will improve for Christians and other minorities living in the country.
In March of 2012, an American teacher working in Yemen was shot and killed in Taiz. In an unrelated incident, a group with ties to al-Qaeda stated that they executed a man because of his “Christian proselytizing”. Yemenite Christians risk further persecution and oppression in the future due to ongoing civil unrest and extreme impoverishment and the situation is not getting any better.
Christians living in Somalia (mostly Muslim Background Believers (MBBs) and expatriate aid workers) practice their faith in secret and are doing so in fear of being found by Islamic Militants. In recent years, at least ten people have been killed for practicing their Christian belief. Some women have also been raped and other people have been kidnapped and perhaps murdered as well. Islam is the official religion; there are no legal provisions that protect Christians trying to exercise their right to freedom of religion. Children must attend Madrasa Islamic school and people are buried with Islamic burial rights, notwithstanding their religion beliefs or background.
In the past, Christians have lent their support to regimes that guaranteed them security and religious freedom. After decades of protection by secular dictatorships, things are again looking bleak for Syria’s Christian communities. As the civil war rages with no end in sight, Syria’s many Christian minorities are coming face to face with the possibility of radical Sunni Islamist supremacy. When government forces are not present, radical Muslims rob churches and kidnap, rape, or even kill Christian women. Innocent bystanders, who make simple trips to the store, are also gunned down. Curfews do little or nothing to make anyone feel safer or less fearful.
2. North Korea:
North Korea has long been labeled the axis of evil, especially by Americans. Kim Il Sung became “Great Leader” of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in 1948, after communists took control of the north. Almost immediately, he shut down all churches and set out to eradicate Christianity. An estimated 300,000 Christians disappeared, and about 100,000 more were imprisoned in labor camps. Virtually all priests and leaders were executed.
Today, North Korea is the second most dangerous place for Christians to live in. What’s even more appalling is that approximately 25% of Christians in North Korea are believed to be imprisoned in labor camps because of their faith. The North Korean regime imposes the state religion of Juche on all citizens. Juche calls for the worship of Kim Jong-un as its deity. Jesus Christ is seen as the direct threat to the leader.
Recent violence in Nigeria can accredited to the work of the Jihadist terror group: Boko Haram. Boko Haram has attained a status as one of the top terrorist organizations in the world. In the last three years, the three most deadly incidents in the country were anti-Christian persecutions: the March 7, 2010 massacre in Jos, Plateau state, the April 16, 2011 pogrom in the country’s sharia states and the Jan. 20, 2012 onslaught in Kano. Two of three incidents were committed by the common Muslims living in northern Nigeria.