Nigeria and North Korea top the list of the nations that most persecute Christians, according to International Christian Concern. The evangelical organization released its “Persecutors of the Year” report this week.
Following those nations, ICC President Jeff King said in an interview Thursday, are India, Iran, China, Pakistan, Eritrea, Algeria, Azerbaijan and Indonesia. The report is online at www.persecution.org, and the group is calling for a day of prayer on Sunday.
Some of the nations are relatively new on the list, while others have had longstanding issues of religious freedom for Christians and others. In Nigeria alone, Mr. King said, 100,000 Christians have died as a result of religious persecution in the past 20 years.
“It’s the mass, it’s the numbers of deaths,” he said about Nigeria’s ranking atop the list. In addition, he said an estimated 3.5 million Christian farmers in the country have been displaced or had their farms taken.
Mr. King said the split in Nigeria between a Muslim-dominated north and a Christian-dominated south could lead to a civil war and subsequent displacement of population that would “dwarf any refugee crisis we’ve had in modern history.”
He said, “There’s a real intent to wake the world up and say, ‘Look at this problem.”
While North Korea’s persecution of Christians is well known — residents found in possession of a Bible can find themselves and their families imprisoned for life — the threat of China’s persecution of Christians is also increasing, Mr. King said.
Chinese Premier Xi Jinping, whose latest push is for a “sinicization” of religions to align their tenets with Chinese Community Party teachings, “is the center of the problem,” he said.
Xi “is a Maoist, in essence,” he said. “This is a guy whose nature is just complete dominance and adherence to his rule and has really recreated what we saw in the old days with Mao [Zedong] where everybody has to bow to him.”
Mr. King pointed to the “fundamentalist Muslim society” in Pakistan as being dangerous for Christians, who “are basically denied any kind of real education” and face “very, very heavy job discrimination, [with] no access to capital” to start a business and improve their lot in life.
Pakistan’s “cauldron of hatred” against Christians and the nation’s anti-blasphemy laws — often used to falsely accuse Christians and seize their property or businesses as well as jail them — also make life difficult in the country, he said.
Turning to Eritrea in the horn of Africa, Mr. King said, “You’ve got heavy, heavy persecution” of Christians, “and hardly anyone knows about it because almost no American” even knows where the tiny nation is.
“It’s an incredibly repressive place,” he said. “They’ll imprison Christians in shipping containers.”
But amidst the challenging circumstances, Mr. King sees hope in places such as Iran, where repression of Christians that has “gone on for decades” has only “really made the church more potent” in society, with Christianity the fastest growing religion, albeit one pushed underground by the country’s hardline Muslim regime.
He said Americans need to “take up the cause” of the oppressed and support international religious freedom. Donations and support for ICC and groups such as Voice of the Martyrs is important, he said.
“Get involved, shout and pray,” he said, “and then go watch what these brothers and sisters are teaching us from across the globe, and they will transform your own faith.”