According to the World Watch List, an analysis published by Open Doors USA documenting the persecution of Christians worldwide, the usual contenders for the most dangerous country for Christians held their top positions. The primary cause of persecution worldwide has long been Islamic extremism, but in the case of North Korea, which has held the top spot on the list for years, the cause is oppression by the communist government's regime.
In North Korea, the state is the source of Christian persecution, and it trickles down into every facet of the Christian's daily life.
"For three generations, everything in the country focused on idolizing the leading Kim family," Open Doors reported in the latest World Watch List this morning. "Christians are seen as hostile elements in society which have to be eradicated. Due to the constant indoctrination permeating the whole country, neighbors and even family members are highly watchful and report anything suspicious to the authorities."
The report continues, "Children are especially vulnerable to the heavy indoctrination. Reports show that some children report their own parents for religious activity. Therefore, many parents prefer not to tell their children anything about their Christian faith until they’re older."
As for just how the North Korean state handles Christians within its borders, Open Doors details a merciless zero-tolerance policy in the state, whose main religion is Atheism: "Not only are [Christians] deported to labor camps as political criminals or even killed on the spot, their families will share their fate as well."
"Christians do not even have the slightest space in society. Meeting other Christians in order to worship is almost impossible and if some believers dare to, it has to be done in utmost secrecy," the report says. "The churches shown to visitors in Pyongyang serve mere propaganda purposes."
Because of North Korea's "extremely difficult security situation", Open Doors explains that it is not possible to give precise examples of persecution within North Korean borders. However, their report does cite the "highly unusual" incident in which Pastor Han Choong Yeol was killed by a squad of four North Korean agents in the Chinese border town Chiangbai on April 30, 2016 as an illustration.
"What was most shocking was not the fact of the killing, but that it was done so publicly," Open Doors said of the pastor's murder. "So if the authorities are not shy to kill a foreign Christian abroad, it may be easier to imagine how they act once they find a local Christian. Of course, every Christian caught will be closely interrogated to uncover any networks."
Now, here is the list of the top 50 most dangerous countries in the world for Christians. To see Open Doors USA's thoroughly detailed analysis (including sources, methods, and examples of persecution) click here.