According to the 2018 Open Doors Report, persecution has expanded geographically and numerically. The threat of religious or ideological nationalism is serious, especially in Asia and Africa.
More than 215 million Christians suffer from intolerance in the world (about 1 in every 12, or 8.6%), 3060 Christians were killed, 1922 imprisoned, 793 churches targeted. These are the figures of the 2018 Report recently published by Ong Open Doors, referencing the period of November 2016 to October 2017.
In its new World Index of persecution of Christians, the organisation, founded in 1955 by a young Dutchman, Ann Van der Bijl, which brings together around twenty independent associations, operating in more than 60 countries at the service of persecuted Christians, reveals that persecution has been expanding geographically and numerically – up 1.13% compared to the previous year, while the number of victims has increased by 154%, compared to those registered in 2017. If Islamic extremism remains the main cause, the increase of religious or ideological nationalism today constitutes a serious threat, particularly in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. “We have noticed that the return of nationalism has increasingly more and more often had a religious connotation” said Michel Varton, Director of Open Doors, and author of the report.
Alongside Islam – involved in 40 of the 50 countries where Christians are most persecuted – there are other religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism and Confucianism which are identified as state religions, in India, Myanmar, Nepal or China, for example. Then there is Communism, the “atheist religion”, that plays a similar role in states such as Laos or North Korea, which has been named as the worst place to be a Christian in the world, once again topping Open Doors’ 2018 watch list for the 17th consecutive year, followed by Afghanistan.
In order to be able to score countries for the World Watch List (WWL), a scoring system has been developed. As a result of the WWL process – the degree of persecution is characterised by a scale of 0 – 100 points – each country gets a specific final score used to determine the order of countries from position 1 to 50 on the annual World Watch List.
In both cases, in (North Korea and Afghanistan, as well as for the other nations examined, the global level of persecution has steadily increased over the last five years. North Korea increased from 92 to 94 points, Afghanistan from 89 to 93 points, Jordan from 63 to 66 points, Tajikistan from 58 to 65 points, Malaysia, from 60 to 65 pts, and Turkey, from 57 to 62 pts. There are some exceptions, such as Pakistan in 5th place, which falls from 88 to 86 points, Nigeria in 14th place from 78 to 77 points, Kenya in 32nd place from 68 to 62 points, and Bangladesh, 41th place from 63 to 58 points.
Taking into account the difficulty in obtaining data in countries where conflicts are in progress, the total score is the sum of a series of parameters related to oppression and violence (extreme, from 81 to 100 points, very strong from 61 to 80 points, strong between 41 and 60). Thus, Nigeria, at the hands of the Islamist sect Boko Haram, has doubled its number of murders (2000) compared to 2017.
Among the countries where violence is growing are Libya (7th place), India (11th place), Egypt (17th place) and Nepal, which has entered 25th place in the rankings, and Azerbaijan at 45th place.
At the bottom of the list, Bahrain (48th) grew from 54 to 57 points, Colombia (49th) from 53 to 56 points, and Djibouti (50th), which fell slightly from 57 to 56 points. Among the very few lights, Syria’s figure stands out, going from 6th to 15th place, probably due to Daesh’s loss of control over the territory.
If we look at the geography of persecutions, Europe, North America and Oceania are exempt. 1 Christian in every 75 thousand can be said to be persecuted. But, persecution in Central America and South America is well established, with Mexico in 39th place and Colombia in 49th place, while there are 14 African countries ranked in the World Watch List, with 81 million Christians persecuted, and 34 Asian countries with 113 million persecuted.
The Report highlights two types of persecution. “Smash”, which consists of brutal physical and material violence, and includes the imprisonment of Christians, often for futile reasons, up to physical suppression. “Squeeze”, which many experience in all areas of life, consists of discreet oppression, such as discrimination and restriction of rights, marginalisation, rigged trials, and persecution that violates Christians’ private life, family and affections.
Pakistan, Central Africa and India are the countries with the highest number of religious buildings targeted. In Pakistan, there were 168 attacks on churches, but India also recorded an increase of more than 50%, and in Sudan, by decision of the government, a drastic plan to demolish 27 churches was launched as a result.
India, Eritrea and China boast the highest number of Christians arbitrarily detained because victim of subjective interpretations of laws against religious freedom, while Central Africa, Congo, Cameroon and Nigeria have the highest number of displaced people – almost 34,000 – for religious reasons.
– M. T. Pontara Pederiva