WASHINGTON --- North Korea has been named the world's top persecutor of Christians for the seventh year in a row by Open Doors.
Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan and Somalia complete the top five on Open Doors' list of the worst persecutors.
One of the world's most repressive regimes, North Korea is governed by dictator Kim Jong Il. The rigidly controlled, communistic country is especially oppressive toward Christianity and other religions.
For more than 50 years, Open Doors USA and its international affiliates have supported the persecuted church by equipping volunteers and providing supplies for Christians living under restrictions on their faith. Individuals, communities and churches linked to the issue of persecution in other countries are the volunteers that provide most of the assistance to Open Doors.
The countries were chosen for Open Doors' World Watch List based on a point-valued questionnaire designed to observe aspects of religious freedom. Types of persecution include attacks on churches, death threats, abduction, murder, abuse, arrests, physical harassment, imprisonment and torture.
North Korea is ranked at a 90.5 value, more than 20 points higher than any other county on the list.
"There is no other country in the world where Christians are persecuted in such a horrible and systematic manner," said Carl Moeller, president of Open Doors USA, in a written release.
Open Doors USA is sponsoring a continual prayer campaign for oppressed believers in the Asian country and will promote advocacy on their behalf during North Korea Freedom Week, April 25 through May 2.
The U.S. Department of State has named North Korea as one of its "countries of particular concern (CPC)," a category reserved for the world's most severe violators of religious freedom. While Open Doors' focus is on the persecution of Christians, the Department of State's CPC designations are based on conditions for adherents of all religions.
The Department of State, however, has not named a CPC list since November 2006. The failure to designate the world's worst violators of religious liberty in more than two years has disappointed members of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), as well as other advocates for religious expression overseas.
USCIRF, a bipartisan panel of nine members appointed by the president and congressional leaders, directs the Department of State's attention to countries that violate religious freedom and other human rights. The commission makes reports to the Department of State and Congress on conditions in specific countries and recommends actions to be taken.
In 2008, USCIRF recommended not only North Korea but Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam as CPCs. The Department of State did not include Iraq, Pakistan, Turkmenistan or Vietnam on its most recent CPC list.
In its 2008 report on North Korea, USCIRF suggested the United States seek to integrate and expand the knowledge of human rights issues in its negotiations with the regime and try to enforce aid and security in the country.
USCIRF also maintains a "watch list" of countries that require close monitoring regarding their policies on religious liberty. Its "watch list" consists of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia and Nigeria.
The 50 ranked countries on Open Door USA's World Watch List may be accessed at www.opendoorsusa.org.
Copyright (c) 2009 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press/www.BPNews.net
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