1. North Korea – For the 12th consecutive year, this is the place where Christian persecution is most extreme. The God-like worship of the leader, Kim Jong-Un, and his predecessors leaves no room for any other religion, and Christians face unimaginable pressure in every sphere of life. Forced to meet only in secret, they dare not share their faith even with their families, for fear of imprisonment in a labor camp. Anyone discovered engaging in secret religious activity may be subject to arrest, disappearance, torture, even public execution. 50,000-70,000 Christians imprisoned in labor camps.
2. Somalia – Pressure is increasing on the tiny Christian community in this Muslim-majority country. Islamic leaders and government officials publicly reinforce that there is no room for Christians, and there is a strong drive to purge Christianity from Somalia. The militant Islamist group, al-Shabaab, targets Christians and local communities. Ten believers are reported to have been killed by members of al-Shabaab in 2013. There is a high level of fear and mistrust among believers, who have to hide their faith for fear of betrayal. The country has a population of 10.3 million with a reported population of Christians less than one thousand.
3. Syria – As the civil conflict inside Syria becomes more and more severe, targeted violence against Christians has escalated. The Syrian opposition is increasingly ‘Islamizing’, and Christians are becoming more vulnerable in all spheres of life. Many Christians were reported to have been abducted, physically harmed or killed, and many churches damaged or destroyed. On October 21st, Islamist militias invaded the ancient Christian settlement of Sadad, killing at least 45 people, and injuring many more.
4. Iraq – There was an increase in attacks and threats against Christians in 2013. Islamist terrorist groups, influenced by the conflict in Syria, are increasing in number. One of their aims is to empty the country of Christians, and this situation is aggravated by the government’s total authority. According to a local source, every two or three days a Christian is killed, kidnapped or abused. As a minority, Christians are an easy target for kidnappers.
5. Afghanistan – The situation in the country remains unstable, and Islamic extremist groups continue to gain power. Christianity is still considered a ‘Western’ religion, and is seen as hostile to Afghan culture, society and Islam. Those who leave Islam are treated as apostates, and face huge pressures from family, society and local authorities. In September 2013, an Afghan MP called for the execution of converts to Christianity. There is no public church, even for ex-pats. Christian converts keep their faith secret, since any connection with Christianity is dangerous. The country has a population of 31 million but only a few thousand Christians.
Do not forget to keep the persecuted church in prayer.