North Korea remains on top of watch list for Christian persecution

For the eighth consecutive year North Korea tops the list of 50 countries regarded as the worst persecutors of Christians. Open Doors USA has sponsored the list since 1991. The ministry supplies Christians around the globe often worshiping in secret for fear of reprisals with basic necessities and biblical material. The list is compiled through questionnaires to field staff and other experts, said Open Doors advocacy director Lindsay Vessey. She said that Open Doors has people in 46 of the 50 countries on the list and distinguished it from State Department statistics which focus on persecution of all faiths. While North Korea remaining on top of the list may not be surprising because of the well-known Stalinist oppression practiced by dictator King Jong-Il’s regime, Vessey said risks for Christians worshipping in secret continue to deteriorate. She said government attempts to restrict movement by assigned specific jobs or workforces to its citizens prompted the ministry to stop its shipments of food and Christian literature into the country. “There were two of these (work detail programs) one right after the other and our people there asked us to continue in faith (with shipments),” she said. “Christians continue to meet in secret with the threat of being placed in a political prison or labor camps.” Also in the top 10 are three countries with a high value of interest to American foreign policy. Iran is second on the list amid the ongoing unrest since the heavily disputed re-election of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last summer. Street battles between demonstrators demanding more openness and government forces have ebbed and flowed for months. “With all the news that has come out of Iran in the past year there has been no focus on the fact that there has been a real crackdown on Christians during that time,” Vessey said. Afghanistan, where 30,000 more U.S. troops are scheduled to be deployed this year, is sixth. Yemen is seventh. The country has received a great deal of attention since it is believed to have been the site of the terrorist training ground for suspected Nigerian bomber Umar Abdulmutallab who attempted to destroy a plane on a Detroit runway Christmas Day. Both Afghanistan and Yemen operate under the tents of Islamic Sharia Law which prohibits the practice of any other religions. “There has been a lot of very good information compiled by the State Department on religious freedom, but it hasn’t been taken as seriously as it should,” Vessey said. She said Christians interested in influencing public policy should engage elected officials, including President Obama, who has yet to appoint an at-large ambassador on religious freedom to the State Department. She also encourages concerned Christians can also become involved in advocacy against restrictive legislation in other countries to protect other overseas. Vessey and Open Doors CEO Carl Moeller said the most sought after commodity by persecuted Christians is prayer and the knowledge that their struggles haven’t been forgotten. “There is a strong group of Christians in North Korea and actually the number of Christians in North Korea has grown in the last 10 years,””Moeller said in a press release. “Many are coming to Christ in the Muslim world. But we need to continue to embrace them in prayer in 2010.” For a detailed look at the list, see: http://members.opendoorsusa.org/site/PageNavigator/World_Watch_List_2010

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