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Communist Asia, Mid-East Countries Top Church Persecution Charts

by Allie Martin and Jenni Parker
May 27, 2004
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(AgapePress) - On a list of the 50 countries around the where persecution of Christians is greatest, North Korea is the leader of the pack.

Each year Open Doors, a ministry to the persecuted Church, compiles a world watch list of countries where Christian believers face the most severe persecution. North Korea topped the most recent list, followed by Saudi Arabia, Laos, the central highlands of Vietnam, and Iran.

Also included in the top ten worst countries is Burma, which has no constitution or laws to protect freedom of religion. Open Doors' Jerry Dykstra says the government of Burma favors Buddhists but treats Christians harshly.

"Christian homes and churches have been burned down," Dykstra notes, "especially among the ethnic tribes -- persecution is really high. The government there is very restrictive, very wary of Christians. Christians suffer. They are not awarded jobs, and sometimes they don't get benefits." Also, because the government opposes the spread of Christianity, Burmese Christians face great discrimination and restriction of education, evangelism, and church construction activities. Thousands of young Christians are unemployed because of their faith and are pressured to convert to Buddhism.

The Open Doors spokesman says when Open Doors communicates with believers in Burma, they request prayer for moral, spiritual, and physical support; for an end to 40 years of repressive military rule and church isolation; and for breakthroughs for the Christian faith among the Buddhist majority.

China also made the ministry's top ten list, Dykstra says. Persecution has not lessened under the new president, Hu Jintao, despite public commitments to human rights and religious freedom. In that communist nation, where Christians are required to register with the official state church, those believers who resist government control over their religious life must often face harassment by the police, detention, beatings and torture, and other forms of government intimidation.

Unregistered house churches are considered illegal in China. The Communist officials have begun a national campaign to register these churches, placing them under government control and supervision, while at the same time denouncing "deviant" beliefs and promoting "orthodox atheism" through state media. Still, many Chinese Christians continue to resist their hostile regime in order to remain true to their faith.

"We do, of course, know that the Christians in the house churches are tremendously persecuted," Dykstra says. "They are rounded up, they are arrested, their churches are sometimes burned down. So we hear the reports of the persecution all the time, and it doesn't get any better. In fact, it's getting worse."

Nevertheless, Dykstra says, despite severe treatment by the communist government of China, an estimated 10,000 to 25,000 people are coming to Christ daily in that country. At a recent special meeting called by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, house church members gave evidence of the persecution they face in China, but also gave praise to God for all the people becoming saved and joining the church daily.

The Chinese Christians also gave thanks that many of the nation's 300 million children would soon have access to the 81,500 children's Bibles and 918,500 pieces of Sunday School materials that Open Doors has committed to provide this year. They also asked other believers to pray that their house church leaders would remain strong in the Word and not be swayed by the many cults active in China.

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