Open Doors, a religious liberty organization that has been tracking global persecution of Christians, says that this year marks the highest incidence of anti-Christian hate in the three decades since it began monitoring such incidents on its World Watch List.
Heading the list of the top fifty offenders is North Korea, an isolationist state which bans information from the outside world—particularly from the U.S., Japan and South Korea.
North Korea returned to the top of the list of Open Door’s World Watch List for 2023 as the world’s worst purveyor of anti-Christian hate after its far-reaching “anti-reactionary thought” law was imposed last year.
The decree, which levies stiff fines or prison for anyone caught experiencing South Korean entertainment or even copying the way South Koreans speak, also affects North Korean Christians who are now under far more serious threat than before.
Importing media from South Korea can put one in prison camp for life, and those found importing large amounts of material from the U.S. or Japan face the death penalty.
Christians who own Bibles and engage in open religious services do so at the risk of torture, imprisonment or execution. Proselytization is simply too dangerous with the devout forced to practice their faith in secret.
Following North Korea on Open Door’s World Watch List as the worst offenders against Christians are Somalia, Yemen, Eritrea, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and Sudan, with an alarming surge of anti-Christian violence by Islamic extremists in sub-Saharan Africa. Nigeria alone with a spike of 5,014 above 4,650 religiously motivated killings the previous year, makes up 89 percent of all religiously motivated killings globally.
Wybo Nicolai, who first created the World Watch List, has nevertheless found a ray of hope behind the grave statistics. “What we noticed is not just an increase of persecution, but also an increase in the size and the strength of the body of Christ,” he says. “Yes, a lot of atrocities, a lot of drama; at the same time, a lot of church growth, as well.”
Interim CEO of Open Doors U.S., Lisa Pearce, echoing Nicolai, agreed that church growth despite persecution gives her reason to hope: “Partly, it’s extraordinary—but incredibly encouraging and challenging—that in a number of countries in the world where it is hardest to live as a Christian, where the consequences are most grave, the church is continuing to grow.”
From its beginnings, the Church of Scientology has recognized that freedom of religion is a fundamental human right. In a world where conflicts are often traceable to intolerance of others’ religious beliefs and practices, the Church has, for more than 50 years, made the preservation of religious liberty an overriding concern.
The Church publishes this blog to help create a better understanding of the freedom of religion and belief and provide news on religious freedom and issues affecting this freedom around the world.