The list is an important, though sobering publication. The fact that there are a top fifty persecuting nations to list is saddening enough, and the top listed nations among the fifty are guilty of persecution in the extreme. Perhaps not surprisingly, North Korea maintains its top-persecuting rank, and Iraq and the African nation of Eritrea now take second and third place, respectively.
The report does not just rank the most persecuting nations, however – it shows where there has been an increase or decrease in a given nation’s ranking, and provides other useful information. For example, although most people are aware of the incredible level of persecution being inflicted on Christian populations by Islamic extremists, the report helpfully indicates other aspects of this situation that we might not be aware of – such as the fact that as legitimate governments became more fearful of burgeoning Islamic extremism, they themselves are often responding by either boosting nationalism as a counterforce or tightening regulations and increasing surveillance over all religious expression.
There are some glimmers of hope. Some few countries have been downranked – such as Syria, which is down from 4th to 5th place, and Somalia, which is down from 3rd to 7th place – but in a number of these cases the downgrading is a result of the mass exodus of Christians rather than any improvement in conditions. At least one country – Mauritania – has been removed from the list, but it has simply been replaced by another country where persecution is growing.
Overall, the picture painted by the new World Watch list is one of growing severe and extreme persecution, and Open Doors is to be thanked for the work they put into carefully monitoring and documenting the escalating situation. The list is itself a powerful weapon in raising awareness and enabling informed reaction to the problem of intensifying worldwide persecution, and we would highly recommend it to every believer. The Watch List can be freely download from the Open Doors website here , and we urge you to familiarize yourself with the list and to use it for prayer and action on behalf of the millions of persecuted believers around the world.
*You can read an interview with David Curry, President and CEO of Open Doors, on our sister site, LivingWithFaith.org, here.