Islamist groups, particularly Salafists,

IHateNEWLAYOUT publicado un comentario 6 horas atrás: "No puedo ser 666 en línea El largo fin de semana en que uso mi esposa: computarizada: A hotel.". - RESPUESTA - ESTE HOTEL? es la masa de negro, con el sacrificio humano a Satanás! Esta es la democracia americana! De hecho synnek1 y IHateNEWLAYOUT: los sacerdotes vudú de Satanás son: de alto nivel. Además, ¿A PAGAR, el dinero, a los pueblos (en total desprecio: de la Constitución) es un crimen de canibalismo! [traidor de: youtube, todos los pueblos: los hijos del FMI fariseos, para destruir a Israel] 666 institucional internacional CIA satanismo, es decir, 1wz1 - me di cuenta de su perfecto italiano: Canal en: DXHJZG: otro satanista: que, precisamente, DXHJZG: se apresuró a borrar toda su: y mis comentarios ... 1wz1 - Cuándo: Domingo Satanistas estadounidenses IhateNewLayout y Synnek1, están haciendo caníbales? Satanistas italiano reemplazado!

2012: January: Open Doors works with the world’s most oppressive
countries, strengthening Christians to stand strong in the
face of persecution and equipping them to shine Christ’s
light in these dark places. The greatest challenge to Christians living under tyranny
and oppression is isolation – from God’s Word and from
the body of Christ. Where other Christian organizations
cannot enter or have been forced to flee by oppressive
governments or cultures, Open Doors can often be found
– supplying Bibles, training Christian leaders, developing
Christian communities and ensuring prayer, presence and
advocacy for these suffering believers.
When these Christians are strengthened in the Lord, they
begin to demonstrate God’s forgiveness and reach out in
love, even to their oppressors.
About the List. The World Watch List (WWL) is a ranking of 50 countries
where persecution of Christians for religious reasons is
worst. First of all, the list covers persecution of Christians
of all denominations in the entire country. The focus is on
persecution for their faith, not persecution for political,
economic, social, ethnic or accidental reasons.
The witness of persecuted
Christians has a unique
power to reach a new
generation of lives and
communities that would
otherwise never be open to the gospel -
but they cannot do it alone.
COPYRIGHT ©2012 OPEN DOORS INTERNATIONAL
Serving persecuted Christians worldwide
OpenDoorsUSA.org 2012, January
WWL Report, January 2012
R: RANK
COUNTRY
RANKING 2011
1 NORTH KOREA 1
2 AFGHANISTAN 3
3 SAUDI ARABIA 4
4 SOMALIA 5
5 IRAN 2
6 MALDIVES 6
7 UZBEKISTAN 9
8 YEMEN 7
9 IRAQ 8
10 PAKISTAN 11
11 ERITREA 12
12 LAOS 10
13 NORTHERN NIGERIA 23
14 MAURITANIA 13
15 EGYPT 19
16 SUDAN 35
17 BHUTAN 14
18 TURKMENISTAN 15
19 VIETNAM 18
20 CHECHNYA 20
21 CHINA 16
22 QATAR 17
23 ALGERIA 22
24 COMOROS 21
25 AZERBAIJAN 24
26 LIBYA 25
27 OMAN 26
28 BRUNEI 29
29 MOROCCO 31
30 KUWAIT 28
31 TURKEY 30
32 INDIA 32
33 BURMA / MYANMAR 27
34 TAJIKISTAN 33
SEVERE PERSECUTION: OPPRESSION
SEVERE LIMITATIONS: SOME LIMITATIONS
SOME PROBLEMS: 35 TUNISIA 37 36 SYRIA 38 The World Watch
List represents: 37 UNITED ARAB EMIRATES 34 38 ETHIOPIA 43 39 DJIBOUTI 39 40 JORDAN 40 where persecution
41 CUBA 41 of Christians is
42 BELARUS 42 43 INDONESIA 48 44 PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES 44 45 KAZAKHSTAN 46 BAHRAIN 47 COLOMBIA 48 KYRGYZSTAN 46 49 BANGLADESH 47 50 MALAYSIA 50
COPYRIGHT ©2012 OPEN DOORS INTERNATIONAL
the 50 countries
the worst.
45
Serving persecuted Christians worldwide: OpenDoorsUSA.org
2012: January
Table of Contents
World Watch List 2012 Countries
North Korea
Afghanistan
Saudi Arabia
Somalia
Iran
Maldives
Uzbekistan
Yemen
Iraq
Pakistan
Eritrea
Laos
Northern Nigeria
Mauritania
Egypt
Sudan
Bhutan
Turkmenistan
Vietnam
Chechnya
China
Qatar
Algeria
Comoros
Azerbaijan
Libya
Oman
Brunei
Morocco
Kuwait
Turkey
India
Burma/Myanmar
Tajikistan
Tunisia
Syria
United Arab Emirates
Ethiopia
Djibouti
Jordan
Cuba
Belarus
Indonesia
Palestinian Territories
Kazakhstan
Bahrain
Colombia
Kyrgyzstan
Bangladesh
Malaysia
The Main Persecutor of Christians

Serving persecuted Christians worldwide
OpenDoorsUSA.org
1. North Korea
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, North Korea tops the World Watch List yet again as
the worst country in the world in which to live as a Christian. Defiantly Communist in the
Stalinist style, a bizarre quasi-religion was built around the founder of the country, Kim Il
Sung. Anyone with “another god” is automatically persecuted, which is why the 200-
400,000 Christians in this country must remain deeply underground. If one takes the lower
number as the total, then a staggering 25% at least are believed to languish in labor camps
for their refusal to worship Kim Il Sung’s cult. So thorough is the anti-Christian campaign
that even North Koreans born today whose grandparents were Christian are earmarked for
low level jobs, which is highly ironic as Kim Il Sung’s mother was a Presbyterian deaconess.
The cult of Kim Il Sung has become unsustainable. Visitors to the capital Pyongyang this year
saw banners declaring, “The Eternal Father is always with us.” In April 2012 the government
is promising a celebration of “epic proportions” for the 100th anniversary of Kim Il Sung’s
birth – a celebration this impoverished nation cannot afford. The UN estimates that roughly
half of its 20 plus million inhabitants are malnourished, and famine is stalking the country
again, with credible reports of thousands existing on diets of grass and tree bark.
Kim Il Sung died in 1994, and his son and successor Kim Jong Il died suddenly on the 17th of
December 2011 of a heart attack at the age of 69. However he had taken steps to ensure his
succession, when in the Fall of 2010 his youngest son, Kim Jong Un, in his late twenties, was
unveiled and then was made a four star general at the conclave of the Korean Worker’s Party
in the Spring of 2011. Credible reports suggest this young man is effectively leading the
country, and that this is likely to be even worse news for Christians. He has been quoted as
saying that he only needs about 30% of the population to survive, and he is believed to have
been behind the sending of a hundred extra spies to China to infiltrate Christian networks
that seek to help refugees. A South Korean Christian missionary in Dangdong, China, was
reportedly assassinated by these spies in August.
North Korea has severe economic woes. Everyone needs some kind of black
market trade to survive. For this reason, the regime seeks to court foreign
aid and will often indulge in window dressing measures to secure it. As part
of this strategy, four churches have been opened in Pyongyang, two are
Protestant, one Catholic and one Russian Orthodox., but there is no
compelling evidence that they are anything more than sightseeing spots for
foreigners. Nevertheless, the North Korean regime is so desperate for aid
that various Christian NGO’s are allowed to operate in the country. Half the
population lives in the northern two-fifths of the country, adjacent to China,
where the nation’s natural resources, such as coal, oil, tungsten, are
concentrated. It is here that family based networks of house churches exist
in significant numbers, and many families are allowed to visit China to get
food from relatives. This results in a pipeline of support, which is constantly harassed by
officials. There were reports of many arrests in the period surveyed, but due to the secrecy
that Christians must preserve to protect their activities, it is impossible or unwise to report
the true extent of the statistics.
As if it needed saying, conditions did not improve in the reporting period for Christians and
North Korea remains the most hostile state in which to practice the Christian faith. Neither
are they likely to in 2012 as Kim Jong Un attempts to consolidates power. It is not a
foregone conclusion that he will however, though most North Korea watchers believe that
the most important regional power—China—will prevent regime collapse. In the ensuing
uncertainty, Christianity will remain a deeply underground yet vibrant faith for the
foreseeable future.
------------------
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2. Afghanistan
The total number of points for Afghanistan increased slightly and thus the
country overtook Iran this year, taking it from third position to second on
the World Watch List 2012. The reason for this shift is a further deterioration
of the situation.
Ten years after the Taliban regime was dispelled from the country by
international forces, the situation remains desolate, especially for minority
groups, including the small Christian community. Despite having signed all
international agreements designed to protect the freedom of religion, the
government in the current setting is not even able to guarantee the most
basic tenants of this right. On the contrary: being recognized as a Christian
immediately places any believer in a very difficult position.
All Afghan Christians come from a Muslim background. If it becomes known
that someone has converted to Christianity, he or she will face heavy societal
and familial pressure. If believers are discovered, they face discrimination by
their family and community, as well as local authorities and Muslim clergy.
They will be put under pressure to recant their faith. Under such
circumstances the tiny Christian minority cannot meet in public. Meetings in
private homes are possible, yet require great caution. Consequently, not a
single official church building remains, not even for the expatriate believers.
The Afghan government treats converts in a hostile manner and will use
every means to bring them back to the Islamic faith. This has been proven
again in the reporting period by the examples of two Muslim-background
believers (MBBs) who were freed only due to enormous international efforts.
Once a Christian is discovered, it is very difficult for him to stay in his
homeland.
Open hostility, however, is not confined to the authorities. Although the
Taliban was weakened and forced into hiding for a time, the terrorist group
is regaining strength. In October they issued a statement via one of their
websites vowing to purge all Christians from the country—whether foreign
or local. They emphasized targeting foreign relief organizations and non-
governmental organizations, accusing them of evangelizing Afghans. The
Taliban named about 200 organizations, further stating that they have a
plan to target the groups one by one. Christian relief workers continue to be
a prime target for all kinds of insurgents. In August 2011, two German
development aid workers were kidnapped in the province of Parwan, north
of Kabul. Both were shot and their bodies were found on September 5.
There were additional reports of kidnappings and other difficulties, which
show the tenuous situation of all Christians, expatriates as well as locals.
International forces will continue their withdrawal in the coming years. This
could mean an increased Taliban influence in the country, which will
negatively impact the rights of minority groups, including Christians.
Pressure on believers in Pashtu areas is even more alarming than in other
areas of the country.
----------------------
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3. Saudi Arabia
PEW Research Forum labels Saudi Arabia as one of the countries with “very high”
government restrictions on religion, based on the fact it does not include any provisions for
religious freedom in its constitution and basic laws. Saudi Arabia also ranks as “high” in
PEW Forum’s Social Hostilities Index, which means the country is part of the 15% of the
countries of the world where anti-religious sentiments are very strong in all parts of society.
Religious freedom does not exist in this heartland of Islam where citizens are only allowed
to adhere to one religion. No legal protection is provided for freedom of religion, nor does
this protection exist in practice. The legal system is based on Islamic law (sharia).
Apostasy—conversion to another religion—is punishable by death if the accused does not
recant. Although the government recognizes the right of non-Muslims to worship in
private, the religious police “the Muttawa” often does not respect this right. The public
practice of non-Muslim worship is prohibited as well in Saudi Arabia. Worshippers who
engage in such activities risk arrest, imprisonment, lashing, deportation, and sometimes
torture. Believers from a Muslim background also run the great risk of honor killing if their
family or community discovers their faith.
Most Christians in Saudi Arabia are expatriates who live and work temporarily in the
country. The majority of them are from the Philippines. These foreign workers, besides
being exploited and poorly paid, are regularly exposed to verbal and physical violence
because of their Christian faith. Migrant domestic workers are even threatened with rape
unless they convert to Islam. There are a number of converts from Islam who live their faith
in deepest secret. However, their number is increasing recently and they are also becoming
bolder about their faith. We received reports of several Christians being physically harmed
for their faith. The total number of Christians facing this kind of persecution is probably a
lot higher, but it is hard to receive sufficient information on this from a closed country like
the Wahhabist Kingdom. A number of Christians fled the country because of oppression for
faith-related reasons. In some cases their lives are at risk.
Yohan Nese, 31 and Vasantha Sekhar Vara, 28, were arrested on Jan. 21, 2011, for
attending a prayer meeting with other Indian nationals and accused of converting Muslims
to Christianity. Religious police interrogated and beat them and they were kept in horrible
conditions in prison. On May 30, Vasantha was released and on July 12, Yohan was
released. Both returned to India. On February 12, a foreign worker was arrested in Jeddah
after discussing faith issues with Muslims close to a mosque. At first he faced the death
penalty, but it was ultimately decided to deport him to his home country. Because of these
arrests, the points for Saudi Arabia increased somewhat compared to the previous WWL
reporting period (64.5 last year versus 67.5 this year) when we did not receive any reports
of arrests of Christians. This brings Saudi Arabia from position four to position three in the
current WWL.
“The rule of the Al Saud family will face a number of challenges in 2012-16, including a
potentially fractious succession process and wider demands for political reform. Despite the
holding of the country's second municipal elections on September 29, the Economist
Intelligence Unit (EUI) does not expect any democratic reform or any move to an elected
parliament before 2016,” states an EIU brief. If the political situation does not change, the
situation for Christians is not expected to improve, as the country seems to be heading for
some more years of regime continuity. As the number of Christian converts from Islam is
increasing, along with their boldness in sharing their new faith, Christians face the risk of
more persecution and oppression in Saudi Arabia in the near future.
----------------------------
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Serving persecuted Christians worldwide
OpenDoorsUSA.org
4. Somalia
Somalia went from position 5 to 4 in the WWL 2012. The overall
persecution situation in Somalia tightened a bit more in the country. The
main persecution engine is Islamic extremism.
Talking about restrictions on the Church does not make much sense in
Somalia. Somalia does not have a traditional church. No one is expected
to be a Christian in Somalia, so Muslim-background believers (MBBs) do
not have organized church groups. They exist as individual secret
believers, and can only know a few others to make a small secret group.
The largest known group in Somalia is composed of five believers. It is
extremely difficult to live as secret believers in a country like Somalia
because of the atmosphere of terror and fear around being a Christian.
For parents, living as secret believers is even more difficult: it is
dangerous to raise their children as Christians for fear of being
discovered and executed.
Somalia is a difficult "country" to assess. Somalia comprises several
distinct areas (though some of the borders are disputed). In
Somaliland, which does not host the Islamic extremist group al-
Shabaab, one can speak about a stern Islamic regime where social
groups (including family) and government encourage each other to
minimize space for Christians, especially MBBs. Puntland compares to
Somaliland. The difference with Somaliland, however, is that due to
the lawlessness in Puntland, this area is the safe haven of pirates and
also al-Shabaab. In those parts of the south controlled by al-Shabaab,
the situation appears even worse - MBBs who are discovered are at
serious risk of “honor killings.” Al-Shabaab is enforcing a harsh
interpretation of sharia in the territories it controls. This militia was
strongly radicalized through external influence of al-Qaeda in recent
years. Because of that its support among the local population is waning.
One may suspect that the image of al-Shaabab has not improved during
the recent drought crisis in the country, when the militia obstructed
humanitarian aid from the West. At the same time however al-Shabaab
is effectively trying to wipe out Christianity from the parts of the country
it controls.
Numerous people have fled within the country and outside the country
for food, ethnic and political reasons as well as for their faith. In such
situations the vulnerability of Christians (and adherents of other
minority religions) to armed groups, local leaders and individuals is
enormous. The impact of this “horrific scenario” on Christians can only
be imagined but is not sufficiently covered in this WWL summary.
The Constitution, approved by the President in 1979, provided for
religious freedom. However, after the subsequent wars, Somalia now
has a Transitional Federal Government (TFG). The TFG is the “Islamic
Courts Union” (ICU) reincarnated, with an extremist interpretation of
Islamic law. The stronger the policies of the TFG against Christians, the
more acceptable it has been to the Muslim extremists. On the other
hand, the very strict application of Islamic law is tempered because TFG
needs the international community in order to stay in power.
--------------------------
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Serving persecuted Christians worldwide
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The TFG has not allowed Christians to openly practice their beliefs in Somalia,
and if anyone is a Christian, his (or her) rights of religion will not be
guaranteed. Still the impression is that TFG, the official government itself, is not
very active against believers - it has other issues to deal with. This is but little
consolation because the TFG is locked up in the capital, and armed groups and
local leaders have a free hand. Until August 2011 the TFG controlled only 10%
of Mogadishu, the capital, but the international forces have managed to
capture over 95% of the city. The Kenyan Defence Forces’ incursion in Somalia
has seen the territory under al-Shabaab significantly reduced.
Al-Shabaab has been weakened by a series of events, compounded by the
deaths of its leaders Osama bin Laden and Faizul Muhammad, the withdrawal
of support from Eritrea, the apathy of Somalia, and the shift of political
aspirations of Somali people. However al-Shabaab still remains a regional
threat because of the many foreigners it is recruiting from Kenya, Uganda,
Pakistan and other countries.
Open Doors does not expect a significant change for good in the persecution
situation in Somalia, neither in the short nor in the medium term. Chaos
normally creates more chaos; Christians as adherents of a minority religion are
normally extra vulnerable in those circumstances. However we expect that if the
Transitional Federal Government forces backed by the international forces
continue to take control and keep al-Shabaab at bay, the persecution may
decrease a little.
--------------------------------
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5. Iran
Religious persecution of certain minorities has intensified in Iran since 2005.
This is particularly aimed at the Baha'i, at Sufi Muslims and at Christians,
especially MBBs. According to the state, only Armenians and Assyrians can be
Christian - ethnic Persians are by definition Muslim, and therefore ethnic
Persian Christians are by definition apostates. This makes almost all Christian
activity illegal, especially when it occurs in Persian languages - from
evangelism to Bible training to publishing Scripture and Christian books. Yet
the regime's harsh treatment of Christians only further fuels the flames of
church growth.
Islam is the official religion in Iran, and all laws and regulations must be
consistent with the official interpretation of sharia law. Although ethnic
(Armenian and Assyrian) Christians are a recognized religious minority who
officially are guaranteed religious freedom, they have reported imprisonment,
physical abuse, harassment and discrimination because of their faith.
Armenian and Assyrian churches are allowed to teach fellow countrymen in
their own language, but it is forbidden to minister to people with a Muslim
background (speaking Farsi). Under the judicial interpretations of sharia law,
any Muslim who leaves Islam to embrace another religion faces the death
penalty. Many church services are being monitored by the secret police.
Believers, especially converts from Islam, who are active in churches or the
cell group movement are being pressured: they are questioned, arrested and
put in jail and beaten. Individual believers are being oppressed by society,
under pressure of the authorities, and family.
During the last few months of 2010 and the beginning of 2011, mass arrests
of Christians took place; more than 200 Christians were arrested during the
reporting period. This number is comparable to the number of Christians
arrested during the previous World Watch List reporting period. The
remarkable difference this time is the statements against Christianity in Iran
which religious and political leaders made in the media preceding the arrests.
For the first time ever, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has warned of the ever
expanding influence and numbers of home-based churches during a speech
on October 19th. Iran's supreme religious leader blamed “the enemies of
Islam for establishing and encouraging the expansion of Christianity in Iran.’’
Also in October, Iran’s intelligence minister said that his agents had
discovered hundreds of underground church groups, including 200 in the
Muslim holy city of Mashhad. In January the provincial governor of Tehran,
Moreza Tamadon, said in a reaction to the arrests of Christians that more will
follow in the near future. He especially criticized Christian evangelicalism,
calling it a “corrupt and deviant movement’’, “a cultural invasion of the
enemy” and likened the Protestant movement to the Taliban and the Wahabis
in Islam. More recently, the Minister of Intelligence, Heydar Moslehi, has
reportedly warned of the threat of house churches and other Christian
interests during October and November 2011. He also indicated that new
efforts are being made to battle against the growth of the house church
movement in Iran. Since the start of the anti-Christian rhetoric, the number
arrests of Christians have increased. Although most Christians were later
released, pressure on the church remains high.
----------------------------------------------
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The regime lost credibility following the turmoil after the 2009 elections, and in
an effort to distract attention from internal problems, it is increasingly lashing
out against Christians. Several Christians were sentenced to jail or death for
Christian activities. However there were no reports of the implementation of
death penalties. Also, Open Doors did not receive any reports of Christians
being killed for their faith whereas this was the case during the last reporting
period. Therefore there is a slight decrease in total of points for Iran (from 67.5
last year to 66 points this year). At the same time the points for other countries
in the top ten increased and as a result Iran went down a few positions from
number two to five. Nevertheless, the situation of religious freedom for
Christians has not improved; it is as serious as last year and no improvement is
expected on the short run.
The Iranian authorities’ fear of the increase of Christianity in the country is
based on facts and not just paranoia. Curiosity and interest in Christianity (and
in other non-Islamic religions) is growing strongly among Iranian Muslims who
are disillusioned with Iran’s state-sponsored Shi’ism, as a result of what the
Iranian government has done in the name of Islam. In total, there are now
460,000 Christians (from an Islamic and Assyrian/Armenian background) in
Iran.
------------------------------
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Serving persecuted Christians worldwide
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6. Maldives
The Maldives are well-known as a dream destination for holidays. The islands
are located in the midst of the Indian Ocean, surrounded by blue water and
white beaches stretched out under the blazing sun. This is the picture
authorities want to give to the outside world. The harsh attitude the
government takes towards all Christian believers is less known, darkening the
lovely picture of the country considerably. Nothing substantial has changed
during the last reporting period, resulting in no changes in ranking or points
for the Maldives on the 2012 World Watch List.
As every Maldivian citizen has to be Muslim, all deviant religious convictions
are strictly forbidden. The government does not distinguish between national
and expat believers. The tiny number of indigenous believers is not able to
meet publicly, let alone worship together. On the contrary, they have to
practice their faith in utmost secrecy, always in fear of being discovered.
While the authorities closely monitor all religious activities that they perceive
to be suspicious, social control also remains extremely high. Maldivian
citizens agree with the heavy handed authorities because they see freedom of
religion as freedom to discuss religious issues related to Islam. This freedom
was non-existent under the former regime governing the country. Maldivian
society demonstrates this attitude towards all kinds of beliefs or convictions,
be it Christianity or Atheism. Additionally, the government has increased
control of all media.
According to an amendment made to the “Protection of Religious Unity Act”
in September 2011, every person must avoid creating hatred towards people
of other religions. While this may initially sound good, it effectively reinforces
the existing government policy that Islam is an inseparable part of a
Maldivian’s cultural identity. The legislation, forbidding the practice of any
religion except Islam, is thus confirmed once again. Commentators therefore
stated that the official direction religion is taking in the country will be
toward Deoband Islam, the same ideology which informs the Taliban’s
convictions.
The Maldivian government views itself as the protector and defender of
Islam. This was recently demonstrated by the imprisonment of a foreign
Christian teacher, who was detained and deported from the country after
allegations that he had stored Christian material on a school computer.
Although no converts were killed for their faith in the past year, pressure on
them remains very high.
Given the sternness of the government and the support it enjoys by Maldivian
citizens, it cannot be expected that there will be substantial changes in the
years to come. Maldivian authorities capitalize on the remoteness of the
Islands to keep a powerful grip on all perceived religious deviations.
--------------------------------
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7. Uzbekistan
For the seventh consecutive year Uzbekistan remains the highest ranked country on
the WWL of all Central Asian states. The total number of points has risen considerably
compared to last year. The regime is fighting several Islamic movements, but seems
foremost to be pre-occupied by the thought of staying in power.
For Christians in the region’s most populous country, practicing their faith has become
difficult, though the Russian Orthodox Church seem to be less affected. All activities of
unregistered churches are strictly forbidden both inside and outside the churches.
Youth activities are forbidden, outreaches are forbidden, seminars and training are
forbidden. Private Bible studies are being tolerated, but those meetings are always in
danger of being closed down. The strict monitoring of all Christian activities continues
and has even been intensified. Though it is fair to say that registered churches have a
somewhat better standing, they nonetheless also have suffered an increasing number
of raids, church members were fined and underwent harassment by the authorities.
Youth activities are especially targeted with officials intimidating young believers,
often instilling in them a fear of taking part in church meetings. Additionally, when
brought to court, a fair treatment is no more than a far dream for anyone, including
Christians.
One of the main reasons for raiding churches is the confiscation of literature. The
authorities will take any kind of Christian literature such as Bibles, hymn books or
commentaries along with DVDs and computers with them. Because of this,
entire libraries of churches, collected under extremely difficult circumstances,
are taken away, leaving the churches and their leaders with almost nothing.
Neither importing Christian books and literature nor printing them within the
country is legally possible. As the state also controls the media and blocks
websites with religious content, it is difficult for believers to obtain Bibles and
other materials in any form. During the last ten years, only a single church
was granted registration.
The government policy of not just fining Christians, but also giving them
short term prison sentences of 3 to 15 days, continues. The number of
Christians undergoing such treatment has increased considerably. The raids
and threats are not limited to a certain area of the country, but are reported
from the capital Tashkent as well as rural areas, from Western Karakalpakstan
to the Eastern Ferghana Valley. And it is not only the government which is hostile
towards the Christian minority.
Societal pressure on believers (especially MBBs) is extreme. Other religious groups and
so-called Mahalla committees are constantly observing the believers and reporting on
them. Neighborhood, family and Islamic clergy are the main sources of harassment. In
several cases, MBBs have lost their jobs, once their faith became known to the public.
In TV programs and talk shows, but also in newspapers and radio programs, believers
are frequently portrayed in a very negative way. In some cases, as Christians were
exposed on TV, the audience was warned of them, thus causing employers to fire their
Christian employees. This way several families have lost their source of income.
The outlook for the Uzbek Christians is not bright. Authorities have started to tighten
their grip on all churches. Societal hostility against them is growing, fanned by
negative TV reports. At the same time, teaching their believers is an increased
challenge for local pastors.
------------------------------------
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8. Yemen
In Yemen, Islam is the state religion and sharia is the source of all legislation.
There is some religious freedom for foreigners, but evangelism is prohibited;
several expatriate workers were deported in the past for Christian activities.
Yemenis who leave Islam may face the death penalty as a result. Christians from
a Muslim background do not only face persecution from the authorities but
also from family and extremist Islamic groups who threaten “apostates” with
death if they do not revert to Islam. Insecurity caused by terrorist movements
makes Yemen very unstable; a situation which has even further deteriorated
during the “Arab Spring” riots of 2011. Kidnappings of foreigners in Yemen
have occurred regularly, usually ending by meeting kidnapper’s demands for
some community assistance, funds, or release of clan members from custody.
Four of the nine foreign Christians kidnapped in June 2009 remain missing.
In Aden there are four official churches (three Catholic and one Anglican) for
the several thousands of expat Christians (most are Westerners, South and East
Asians and Arabs) or refugees (mainly Ethiopian) living in the country. However,
in the north, no church buildings are allowed. Large numbers of expats have
left as a result of the “Arab Spring” riots. The number of Muslim background
believers is estimated at just a few hundred. When a Muslim becomes a
Christian, he or she faces persecution from family and government. They are
not allowed to have their own gatherings, so they meet in secret locations. Due
to the chaotic and violent situation in the country, there was limited access to
the country and less information was available (also expressed in the Variation
Degree which increased from 3 last year to 5 this year. The number of points for
Yemen decreased slightly, from 60 to 58.5 points.) Because of this, the country
is ranked in 8th place this year (instead of 7 last year).
The government has used excessive force to crack down on the protestors after
10 months of mass protest, caused by high levels of unemployment in the
country and government corruption. President Saleh finally signed a political
transition agreement on November 23, transferring power to his deputy Abd-
Rabbu Mansour Hadi. In February 2012, presidential elections will be organized.
However, as the International Crisis Group notes, “Ten months of popular
protest spiked by periodic outbursts of violence have done little to clarify
Yemen’s political future.” Yemeni politics are indeed extremely complex. The
country is deeply divided between pro- and anti-Saleh forces and the south of
the country is claiming its independence. In spite of President Saleh’s
resignation, the conflict risks getting bloodier, opposing Shiite Huthi rebels and
Sunni Islamists. To make it even more complex, the country has a strong tribal
system which is difficult to understand for outsiders. Besides that, small groups
of al-Qaeda-linked groups struggle for more power in the country. Christians
who are on either side of the political spectrum, in spite of their differences, are
reported to have maintained unity in Christ.
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9. Iraq
A true exodus of Christians is going on in Iraq. Christians are fleeing the
country massively and it can only be guessed how many are still present.
Since the United States army has started to withdraw from the country,
Iraq has suffered from structural uncertainty, conflict and instability, under
a government incapable of enforcing the rule of law and providing a
minimum of security. Corruption levels are soaring and sectarian violence
does not seem to stop.
Iraq’s Federal Constitution says each individual has freedom of thought,
conscience and belief, but there is no article on changing one’s religion.
However sharia is the primary source of law, which forbids conversion of
Muslims to other religions. This makes it legally impossible to apply
freedom of belief in the cases of converts. There is no safe haven for Arab
families who convert from Islam.
Iraqi Christians feel that the current government fails to give them
security. There was a marked increase of killings of Christians and attacks
on churches during the previous reporting period. Violence still is part of
the Iraqi society in 2011, although there were fewer reports of casualties
than last year. During the current reporting period, we reported 38
Christians killed and between 48-99 injured, numbers which are likely to
be higher in reality. Although these figures are dramatic, those of the
previous reporting period were even higher: at least 90 murdered and
230 injured (which is mostly explained by the deadly bomb attack on the
church in Baghdad in October 2010 and the attack on the busses full of
Christian students in May 2010). Also the number of reported abductions
decreased whereas they still take place regularly. (These decreased
numbers resulted in just 1.5 points less for Iraq: from 58.5 last year to 57
this year, leading to position 9 on this year’s WWL versus 8 last year). It
goes without saying that the situation of Christians in Iraq is still
deplorable and is by no means improving.
A new development is the deterioration of the situation of Christians in
the northern part of the country, Kurdistan. Whereas Kurdistan has long
been considered a safe haven for Christians, violence against Christians is
on the increase there as well. The main cause of persecution there is
Islamic extremism. Analysts think that one of the reasons for the growing
Islamic extremism is Iraq’s drift into Iran’s orbit while the United State’s
influence is diminishing in the country.
Christian individuals are still being threatened, robbed, raped, or
kidnapped and churches attacked. In April, a roadside bomb exploded
near the rear entrance of a Catholic church in Baghdad after Sunday Easter
Mass, injuring at least seven people (not necessarily all Christians) and
shattering its windows. Two churches in Kirkuk were bombed in August
2011 and damaged badly. Several people were injured. Bombs were found
in two other churches in this city. One month before, a new church was
opened in Kirkuk. The attacks could have been a reaction to that, which
may have been incited by the fact that it was Ramadan.
The sectarian violence is causing Christians to flee the country in large
numbers; tens of thousands of Christians have left the country since the
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attack on the Sacred Heart church in Baghdad at the end of October 2010.
Many sources reported that in 1991 Christians in Iraq numbered around
850,000 – 1,000,000, including those living in the Kurdish region. In 2003 the
number dropped to 550,000 and in early 2010 there were 345,000. The
estimated number of Christians continues to decrease, leaving an estimated
300,000 Christians in Iraq at present. The figures show a dramatic decrease of
Christians in 10 years. As a result of the rise of Al Qaeda and the advance of
Islamist movements, the largest non-Muslim religious group in the country is
at risk of disappearing after a presence of two millennia. Also, the exodus of
Christians in Iraq may well have important political and social consequences
for the region.
The Economist Intelligence Unit expects that “the government of national
unity, which brings together the four largest political groups, will continue to
be weak and divided, and some blocs are likely to pull out to join the
parliamentary opposition.” The weakness of the state is expected to benefit
insurgent groups who are expanding their power base, which will make the
situation of Christians even more difficult. This also affects the Kurdish region
which was once safe for Christians. The attacks on Christian-owned
businesses and some mainly Christian villages in Northern Iraq from
December 2 to 5, 2011 by Islamic rioters show the future is bleak for
Christians in the entire country of Iraq.
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10. Pakistan
Pakistan provided one of persecution’s worst headlines in 2011 with the
assassination of Cabinet Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, the highest ranking Christian ever
to be killed in this lawless country. A Roman Catholic, the forty-two-year old was
the Minister for Minority Affairs in the federal government and one of the highest
profile advocates for the removal of the notorious blasphemy law. As the only
Christian minister in the cabinet, he was unusually influential. Four gunmen
approached him in broad daylight in Islamabad when he was returning in his car
from a visit to his mother on March 2. They sprayed his car with bullets and fled
the scene, and have not been heard of since. The investigation – like so many in
Pakistan – has been described as “tepid” by human rights activists. A letter found
at the scene from the Pakistani Taliban said that he had been executed for his
attempts to amend the blasphemy law: “We will not spare anybody involved in acts
of blasphemy,” it read.
Pakistan’s Christians are a beleaguered minority of about 2.5% in a country of
176.7 million, which is 96% Muslim, and the killing of Bhatti was “one of the most
demoralizing acts for us of recent years,” according to a church leader in Karachi.
Bhatti’s death came after the slaying of the Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, a
Muslim sympathetic to the Christian plight. He set out to change the blasphemy
law by supporting Asia Noreen (also known as Asia Bibi), the first woman
sentenced to death on blasphemy charges. One of his bodyguards turned his gun
on the Governor, while five others of the security detail merely watched. Thousands
of militants turned out in the streets to support the assassin and protest that he
even be charged with murder. The central government, with characteristic
weakness, quickly stalled any move to deal with the offending laws. Indeed,
Bhatti’s cabinet post was abolished, and the position downgraded to the state
governmental level.
Four other Christians were also killed in the reporting period, two of them gunned
down outside their church in Hyderabad, Sindh Province on March 22. Death
threats are routine for church leaders; beatings are common and damage to church
property occurs on a monthly basis.
Pakistan’s Christians are caught between Islamic militant organizations that
routinely target Christians for violence, and an Islamizing culture that makes
Christians feel less and less a part of Pakistan. Add into the mix a weak and corrupt
central government unwilling to confront injustice, and a military that has been
found complicit in fueling Islamic militants to gain leverage in Afghanistan and
Indian- held Kashmir, and it is clear that Christians have few allies in their fight to
flourish in the land of their birth. These persecution dynamics have been in place
for many years however, and the country is set to surpass Indonesia as containing
the world’s largest Muslim population by 2030 (256 million), according to a Pew
Research Report released in January 2011.
The news is not all bad however. The laws of Pakistan give Christians considerable
freedom to run their churches; the Christian population is growing, and a steady
but significant trickle of Muslims join churches. In the future, the rising
superpower of China may force the military to stamp out internal Muslim militants
as it intends to build a trade superhighway through the country down to Sindh
province where they are building a warm water port. The USA also retains leverage
over the state due to its US$2billion annual grant to the military. But in the shorter
term it is becoming harder to be a Christian in Pakistan.
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11. Eritrea
Eritrea climbed from position 12 to position 11 in the WWL 2012. The slight increase of the
persecution situation in the country is mainly due to a higher number of incidents involving the small
group of independent Protestant evangelical Christians, declared enemies of the State by the
government of President Isaias Afewerki. In Eritrea the non-compliant churches are understood to be
evangelical, Pentecostal or charismatic. Jehovah Witnesses, however, also bear the yoke of aggressive
persecution. Main characteristic of the persecution situation: very serious persecution of a small part
of the Christian body in the country, with the potential to see the broader body affected in the near
future.
The government is the main persecutor. The government of Eritrea adheres somehow to Marxist
ideology but its real quest seems to be plain power. The general population has become tired of the
government and does not expose evangelical Christians to the government like it did before.
The persecution pattern in Eritrea is therefore mostly related to the specific dynamics of government
driven persecution. No spontaneous killings-on-the-spot by individuals or mobs, inspired by their
overzealous religious leaders, but more systematic government action. Christians from the evangelical
minority are pressurized to change or renounce their religion. They are tortured and forced to revert
to the registered denominations. While no Christian has been killed in the last year, five Christians died
in prison due to illness. Many more believers were released so that they wouldn’t die while in
government’s custody. Some were denied medical attention, others received inadequate medical care.
Anyone who is caught or discovered to be an evangelical Christian was sent to jail without trial, the
crime committed being an evangelical Christian in Eritrea. It is hard to establish exactly how many
Christians are in jail because of the nature of crackdown that the government undertakes all over the
country. Actual estimations are around 1,500 Christians in detention. The government holds Christians
in military camps, some in hidden places not accessible to ordinary people other than government
officers. The persecuted only emerge to narrate their story after they have been released.
Churches that existed in 1952 are favored, including the Eritrean Orthodox church, Roman Catholic
Church and Lutheran church. Islam is among the recognized religious groups since 1952. The Eritrean
Orthodox Church is the largest church in the country, most aligned to the government and
government policies. Its members are said to spy on the activities of evangelical Christians and report
them to the government. But if they start to annoy government, they get in trouble, too. So, they are
closer to the government, but not free.
In the past, when the churches were closed on May 12, 2002, most believers had fled the country. The
majority of the believers now are those who have come to Christ during this latest period of
crackdown. The Church is growing in size and strength. Meanwhile persecution is increasing. Since
June 20, 2011 the believers in prison have been denied visits and supplies by relatives. The past year
saw a renewed crackdown on house churches resulting in imprisonment of at least 23 youths. A new
persecution dimension opened occurred when the government required the Orthodox and Catholic
priests in training, normally exempt from military service, to be enrolled for military service. The
churches refused but the youths were forcefully drafted into the army.
Despite the heavy crackdown and persecution of evangelical Christians, the government is
disappointed that it hasn’t been able to wipe out the evangelical churches completely. There are
recent revelations by Wikileaks, that the government has plans to exterminate the leadership of the
evangelical churches.
Open Doors expects that the overall persecution situation in the coming years will remain the same. If
the government also starts to seriously persecute the broader Christian community, or the actions of
the government against the evangelical churches will be too severe, social groups may in the medium
term start to resist government actions and contribute to softening of the persecution situation.
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12. Laos
The fact that Laos has dropped out of the top 10 on World Watch List 2012
should not be seen as a sign of improvement in this country. In fact, nothing has
changed substantially over the past year. The state is Communist-atheist and
authorities exercise tight control on all parts of society. This is also true for all
religious activities. Only three Christian denominations are registered (Catholic
Church, Laos Evangelical Church and Seventh-day Adventist). Other small
independent Protestant congregations are under pressure and have been refused
recognition. The activities of unrecognized churches are considered illegal by
authorities, who detain and arrest their members and leaders under various
pretexts.
The preferred religion of the Lao government is Theravada Buddhism. The
Christian minority is therefore perceived antagonistically as being “foreign
agents.” But the real problem seems to lie within the conduct of the local
authorities, who regard Christians as enemies. Believers must take extreme
caution when talking about their faith. Christians always have to stay within
tacitly understood guidelines. Local authorities often make use of the
prevalent hostile attitude of society towards Christians as a means and
justification to monitor them. Frequently, Buddhist leaders and village
shamans closely watch Christians. Despite such pressure from all sides, the
Church is growing, especially among tribal groups.
Hence, believers with a tribal background—which includes the vast majority
of all Christian believers—are suffering the most. Occasionally some
Christians are arrested, detained and pressured to renounce their faith. This is
especially true among Christians from the Katin or Hmong tribes who are
sometimes even killed, often in Army clashes. In April during this reporting
period, the lives of at least four Hmong Christians were taken and several others
were arrested. Churches were deprived of their buildings and possessions, which
were often destroyed and sometimes confiscated. On the other hand, an
encouraging sign was that the government afforded some expulsed families with
their own piece of land on which they can farm, allowed the children to attend
regular school and welcomed believers in public hospitals.
But in general, for several years, nothing substantial in Laos has changed for the
Christian minority. And at the moment, it looks like this will also be true for the
coming year.
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13. Northern Nigeria
The main persecution engine in Northern Nigeria is Islamic extremism. Northern
Nigeria went up in the World Watch List from position 23 to 13 with an estimated
total of 1,000 deaths, mostly in the North. More than reflecting an increase in the
number of incidental attacks against Christians and churches, this change
highlights the structural process in which social groups firmly linked to a
dominating religion (Islam) and government drive each other into a “vicious circle”
of suffocating religious minorities (Christians) in the sharia dominated areas of
Northern Nigeria.
Persecution of Christians in Northern Nigeria is driven by extremist Islam. Boko
Haram is the most well-known face of the persecution. The Boko Haram sect—
“Western education is forbidden”—was founded in 2001 and flourished until 2009
when it was forbidden by the authorities and suffered a serious blast from security
forces. However, between then and now the sect has been able to reorganize and
be a serious threat, attacking not only Christians and their churches, but also
government buildings, police stations and even mosques that do not follow their
agenda. For instance, on June 12, 2011, the sect members detonated bombs in
Maiduguri killing about 14 people including a pastor and his secretary who were
shot dead at the church premises. Church leaders in Maiduguri are disturbed over
the negligence of the government to bring an end to the activities of the sect; from
2009 to date over 50 churches have been destroyed by the sect members and
around 10 pastors have been killed. Also, many believers have been murdered.
Boko Haram, a homegrown fundamentalist group devoted to violence which allied
itself with al-Qaida in the Magreb (AQIM), also claimed responsibility for the
August 26 bombing in Nigeria's capital of Abuja. The car-bomb blast killed at least
19 people and wounded many more, but more important than the numbers was
the target—the United Nations headquarters—this way internationalizing the
conflict in Northern Nigeria.
Another face of extremist Islam in Northern Nigeria is broad popular support
for radical Muslim expression, as shown by the many dramatic events in which
churches were attacked and families killed or wounded.
The close interconnectedness of radical Muslim activists poses specific
difficulties to Christians in Northern Nigeria. On August 29, Christian youth
heavily provoked by Muslim youth—and weary of having seen their family
members killed for such a long time without anyone intervening—forcefully
retaliated causing the loss of three lives. The Nigerian dailies reported that
more than 12 Muslims were killed, and a bigger group of Christians injured—
the Christian youths had been shot by either the Muslims or security agents.
After this event, threatening statements against Christians in Jos were flowing
in from neighboring Muslim states, targeting minority Christians in all 12 sharia
states in Northern Nigeria. Sometimes it seems extremist Muslims everywhere in the
region are eagerly waiting for an incident to “blow the trumpet of an attack” that
outweighs by far the initial event.
In April 2011, incumbent Goodluck E. Jonathan of the ruling People’s Democratic
Party, a Christian, won the presidential elections in Nigeria. There was a big debate
about the candidacy of Jonathan, because he was a Christian. Muslims felt the
presidential candidates should have been Muslims, based on an agreement in
Nigerian politics between Muslims and Christians. The victory of Jonathan caused
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serious unrest, leaving hundreds killed and a massive destruction of churches
from Yobe state in the North East to Sokoto in the Northwest.
The combination of terrorist group activities and broad popular support at
the local level for further Islamization of Northern Nigeria, including the
possible quest to eliminate Christian presence in the (intended) “House of
Islam,” makes the future for the church in this part of the country very
difficult. In the “middle belt” between the mainly Muslim north and Christian
south, the risk of civil war is very real. A complicating factor is that in this
region dozens of ethnic groups vie for control of fertile lands and political
and economic power. While much of the conflict over the past decade cuts
across religious and ethnic lines, it finds its roots in simmering economic and
political issues, and rapid population growth. The effect of the developments
in Northern Nigeria and the “middle belt” in Southern Nigeria, remains to be
seen.
Northern Nigeria has an estimated 27,000,000 Christians with a total
population of about 70,000,000. According to one of Open Doors’ sources,
“about 5 million believers are under intense pressure in sharia states of the
North as a result of their faith. Because of the intense solidarity sentiments
and structures among Muslims and sharia states—in a tense socio-economic
situation—Open Doors expects the persecution situation in Northern Nigeria
will deteriorate, also drawing Christians living in quieter areas in the North
who are not yet exposed to severe persecution, into the vicious circle of
religious violence that took more than a thousand lives during the reporting
period.
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14. Mauritania
Mauritania is not often in the news and seems to have been forgotten by the international
community. Very little attention has been given to the suffering of its small, local Church. Because
of harsh government restrictions, it is very difficult, if not impossible, for Christian missions and
Christians in general to operate in the country. After Somalia and Eritrea, Mauritania is the
African country that ranks highest on Open Doors’ World Watch List. Mauritania also ranks as
“high” on the PEW Forum’s Government Restrictions Index, meaning that religious beliefs and
practices are strongly restricted by government laws, policies and actions.
Mauritania, very proud to be officially a pure Muslim country, does not include any provisions for
religious freedom in its constitution, and its laws prohibit conversion to Christian faith. The
sentence for apostasy is death.
Recent incidents of persecution include several deaths. In 2009, a U.S. schoolteacher in
Mauritania, Chris Leggett, was murdered by Islamic extremists for spreading Christianity. A young
woman, a Christian convert from Islam, died in May 2010 after she was beaten by her father and
brothers because she refused to come back to the Muslim faith. In 2011 the overall situation of
the country has not noticeably improved. According to our reports this year, some of the local
Christians were beaten, but nobody was killed for their faith. However, pressures
upon Christians did get stronger compared to last year.
In Mauritania, it is extremely difficult to be a Christian. Pressure on Muslim
Background Believers from family and tribe members and leaders of local
mosques, is very high. There is some freedom for expat churches, but even for
expats residing in the country it is complicated. It remains completely impossible
for Mauritanian Christians to register their churches, so they must meet in secret.
There is no question that extremist Islam is the main factor of increasing
persecution in the country. Extremist Islamic ideology has become more visible in
Mauritania during this last year, showing that the Salafists are having a growing
influence in their attempts to adhere to the rules of Islamic morality, notes
Magharebia, a U.S.-sponsored online news website, in a recent country brief.
The Islamists create tension and opposition against Christians. In December 2010, at the National
Assembly, Islamist Members of Parliament questioned the government about their attitude
toward Christian organizations, which led to increased monitoring of Christian activities. In July
2011, the council of the Mauritanian Imams asked the government to criminalize obvious
apostasy and proselytizing.
Moreover, the influence of al-Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM) in Mauritania is growing. The group
is gaining support among local Mauritanians and is also monitoring Christians in the country.
Northern areas of the country are increasingly under the control of extremist Muslim groups who
are mostly linked to the al-Qaeda network.
Compared to last year, the situation in the country is getting worse, but not dramatically worse.
On the WWL, the country dropped one place because other countries climbed, yet it increased in
points to indicate a slight increase in persecution.
The country, isolated from the rest of the world because of its mainly desert landscape and rule
by a very oppressive regime, has not yet experienced anything related to the Arab Spring that has
brought about the big social and political shifts in neighboring countries. However, extremist
Islam is becoming more influential and this will likely lead to the increased oppression of
Christians.
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15. Egypt
Egypt is home to nearly 10 million Christians, about three quarters of all Christians in the
Middle-East. Tensions between this large Christian minority and the Muslim majority have
always existed, but seem to have increased over recent months. The revolution that ousted
President Hosni Mubarak, who stepped down February 11, 2011, brought Muslims and
Christians together against a hated dictator as they demanded an end to corruption and a
solution to structural poverty and rising unemployment. However, Muslim-Christian
relations deteriorated afterwards.
Egyptian Christians, initially enjoying their new-found freedom, were hopeful that their
situation might improve. However, as the Islamists succeeded in the events following the
constitutional referendum, the government was unable to restore necessary law and order.
Increasing levels of violence against Christians seem to indicate that the situation for
Christians has actually worsened. This explains why Egypt jumps from position 19 on the
WWL in 2011 to position 15.
Radical Islamic fundamentalists are becoming highly visible. The Muslim Brotherhood, the
jihadist Gamaa Islamiyya and the Salafist Ansar al-Sunna Society are manifesting themselves
in the public domain. After decades of suppression, these groups are ready to form political
parties, compete in coming elections and determine future developments in the country.
Egypt made headlines with the October Maspero massacre that killed 26 Coptic Christians
who were peaceful protesters; hundreds were injured. In this bloody incident, the military
did not do anything to protect Christians who were being attacked and even participated in
the killings. This massacre can hardly be seen as an isolated incident, but is part of an
overall negative trend that started with the 2011 New Years Eve bomb attack in front of the
Alexandria Church of the Two Saints that killed and injured many Christians.
Persecution of Christians in Egypt is on the rise, with a substantial increase in numbers
killed, physically harmed and churches/houses attacked. Salafi Muslims continue to
intimidate local Christians by blocking entrances to churches, demanding that church
buildings be moved outside communities, or that church repairs be forbidden. There are
accounts of an increasing number of Coptic girls abducted and forced into Islamic
marriages since the January 25 revolution. In rural areas, Copts are constantly terrorized,
with security forces turning a blind eye to the events.
During Mubarak’s government, oppression of churches was always present. The country is
now led by a civilian transition government supervised by the Supreme Military Council,
which is showing an increasingly anti-Christian attitude and is sympathetic towards the
Muslim Brotherhood. This military council will seek to retain control of the government,
even after the parliamentary elections, as it has done for the last 50 years.
In the context of Salafi manifestations in public, the future looks bleak for Christians and for
moderate Muslims. If civil and political rights are obtained, Christians could substantially
improve their position, but this scenario does not seem very likely in Egypt where the poorly
educated population is rapidly turning to Islam. Support for both the Muslim Brotherhood
and Salafi Islam is growing. After radical Muslims won the parliamentary elections on
November 25, the situation for Christians will almost certainly get worse.
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16. Sudan
The main persecution engine in Sudan is Islamic extremism. Sudan (North
Sudan before the independence of South Sudan on July 9, 2011) jumped from
position 35 to 16 in the World Watch List. Although there are some structural
developments that push for further persecution, this jump mainly reflects a
higher number of incidents involving Christians and churches. The number of
formally reported killings is limited, but the whole Abyei, South Kordofan and
Blue Nile area has seen thousands killed, religion being one factor but
hopelessly confused with perceived political loyalties and control of resources.
Still we count those victims as killings related to persecution of Christians
because their faith highlighted them as potential targets, while their
vulnerability is high in a context in which government and society severely
restricts religious freedom.
Do the constitution and/or other national laws of this country provide for
freedom of religion? President Omar al-Bashir asserted last year that after the
July 9 separation from South Sudan, (North) Sudan would be based on sharia
(Islamic law) and Islamic culture, with Arabic as the official language. That is
not official yet although it is unofficially implemented. An expert calls
“Islamization and Arabization rampant in parts of the country.” At the same
time, mainstream Muslim society supports the President’s assertion by claiming
amendments to the Constitution to make it overtly more Islamic. One would
think this to be superfluous, the more so because practice already shifted
towards Islamic law. Anyhow, it seems Islamic social groups and government
pair spontaneously in pushing for a stern Islamic society.
Persecution comes from different sources: (a) Islamic groups, and the broader
public, wanting to form an Islamic state; (b) the family against Muslim
Background Believers (MBBs); (c) the State against recognized Christians.
Actually conversion is just not recognized, i.e. MBBs are treated as if they are
Muslims.
Is Christianity growing or decreasing? Many Christian Background Believers left
(North) Sudan for South Sudan. The number of MBBs in Sudan is probably
rising.
In Sudan, persecution of Christians has increased rapidly over the past 12
months. An expert states “it should have increased more rapidly, but because
of war in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, it slowed down in the capital in order
to gain public opinion.” In the near future, persecution of Christians in Sudan
will likely increase seriously, with Christians in the country being squeezed
between Islamization and Arabization. The effects of a possible war between
Sudan and the newly formed South Sudan will even be more disastrous for
Christians – warfare dynamics can easily cover-up severe acts of religious
persecution.
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17. Bhutan
Bhutan made it into international headlines recently, when the country’s king
married a young commoner this October, another indication for change. The
country became a constitutional monarchy in 2008, and is still going through
several major changes in politics and in society. As the country transitions
from an absolute to constitutional monarchy, signs indicate these changes
will affect Christians in a positive way, resulting in Bhutan decreasing in
points and ranking on the 2012 World Watch List. Whereas Prime Minister
Jigme Thinley states that “democratic culture is gradually taking firm roots”
in the country, he absolutely denies the right of the small Christian minority
to testify about their faith. Expressing a commonly held belief in Bhutan, he
said that there is no reason why Christians should seek to induce others to
join their faith. Hence, the parliament, which is largely dominated by one
party seen as royalist, is still considering an amendment to the penal code
aimed at prohibiting “conversion by coercion or inducement.” Christians in
the country deny that they would seek to convert people by giving them
money or by forcing them to convert.
Though Christian churches are not officially recognized yet, the government
is exploring possibilities for registration. The key issue in negotiations will
likely be the question of evangelism. At the moment, believers are in a
transitional period. The church in Bhutan is no longer an underground
church, since Christians are allowed to meet in private homes regularly on
Sundays without any interference by authorities; Christians in remote villages
encounter more difficulties, though. In that respect, the reporting period saw
a considerable improvement of the situation of the Christian minority.
However, the situation for Christians will stay ambiguous as long as their
status is not officially clear. Another positive development this year is that
there are no reports of Christians being arrested, physically harmed, or
otherwise badly treated. Discrimination occurs occasionally.
Whether the Christian minority will experience increased religious freedom
will depend largely on how the planned anti-conversion-law is drafted.
Additionally, the process of recognizing and registering churches along with
the establishment of rights and duties needs to be defined. The Christian
minority can be seen as a test case regarding the optimistic announcement
made by Prime Minister cited above.
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18. Turkmenistan
In Turkmenistan, the tight grip of the authorities on Christians continues. The
slight decrease of points does not imply that the situation for the Christian
minority has improved in any way, neither does the loss in rank. But as no
kidnappings of Christians or attacks on Christian homes were reported this
year, the country moved a bit down the list. As in all other Central Asian
countries, there is a considerable difference between registered and
unregistered churches. Big churches, like the Russian Orthodox Church, seem
to be less affected. All unregistered religious activity is strictly illegal.
Obtaining a registration is a highly bureaucratic process. For native Turkmen
communities, being registered is simply impossible, for the others it is
difficult. But even registered communities face difficulties in finding a
meeting place, let alone having a worship gathering outside. Police and
secret service keep any Christian activity under surveillance. The lower ranks
and local authorities are very biased against the Christians; dozens of
believers were detained for short periods.
This strict surveillance makes it difficult for churches to teach their
constituency. The printing and importing of all religious literature is
effectively banned. Registered communities may ask for an import approval,
but normally their application will be rejected. In the reporting period,
Turkmen churches were not able to import any Bibles, commentaries, hymn
books etc. Indigenous believers face special problems as they have to cope
with the open hostility of family, friends and neighborhood. MBBs are under
constant pressure to recant their new faith.
One Turkmen pastor (Ilmurad Nurliev) remains in prison after being sentenced
to four years due to false allegations against him. He was convicted in
October 2010, and despite several amnesties since then, he has not yet been
released. Like all other Central Asian states, the outlook for Turkmenistan is
not very positive. As long as the authorities consider Christians a disruptive
element in society, changes cannot be expected.
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19. Vietnam
Vietnam is one of the countries on this years’ World Watch List which climbs
in points, but falls slightly in ranking. This is mainly due to the rapidly
deteriorating situation for Christians in Egypt, which has “overtaken” the
country, at least in terms of ranking. For this reason, the descent of Vietnam
on the list should not be equated with an improvement of the situation for
Christians. In fact, the opposite is true for Vietnam.
Vietnamese authorities keep a close eye on all Christian activities in the
country. Believers face more problems by officials, often being accused of
causing “social disturbances,” “fighting the local government” or simply
“subversion.” Church leaders are closely monitored and have to be careful
regarding what they say and how they act. Christians are routinely
questioned by security police, especially when they witness to others.
Several reports demonstrate that the Vietnamese army attacked two
Christian Hmong villages in May and July of this year. The result of these
attacks was that at least 16 people were injured. The basis for these
attacks is a mixture of the government’s adherence to a Marxist-Leninist
ideology found in the constitution, and continued neglect of the needs of
ethnic minorities in the Central Highland bordering Cambodia and Laos.
Christians belonging to the ethnic minorities and tribes are the citizens who
face the most challenges for their faith. In tribal areas, village and religious
leaders like shamans take offense when Christians come to their villages to
preach the Gospel. Because of this, they monitor everyone who is helping
new converts and report their activities to local authorities. Using their strong
position in society, those local religious leaders often influence local
government to take action against the increasing growth of the church. In
rural areas, believers have to live in very difficult circumstances. Evangelism
and Christian teaching are done secretively, keeping a low profile.
As long as Christians are accused of causing social disturbances due to their
faith—be it in court or by rural society—true improvement is unlikely.
Ongoing disputes in the tribal areas result in entrenched discrimination of
Vietnamese Christians. They will not be viewed as citizens who can make a
valuable contribution to their country and society in current conditions.
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20. Chechnya
Chechnya is formally still a part of the Russian Federation, but the
independence wars that opposed Islamic rebels and the Russian army during
the ‘90s are still fresh memories for the general population. Tensions continue
to exist and occasional terrorist attacks still occur—including in neighboring
Dagestan and other northern Caucasus regions—although Russia has killed
many separatist leaders and succeeded in installing a pro-Moscow Chechen
regime in 1999.
Chechnya is one of the areas in Russia where Islam plays an important role.
Russian legislation is formally applicable in Chechnya, but there are also a
couple of local rulings which limit religious liberty. The regime of Chechen
President Ramzan Kadyrov has expressed its willingness to introduce sharia,
but this has not been done yet. The government, however, has already
implemented clothing regulations. There is an unspoken rule that all women
who work for the government should be wearing head scarves at work, and
all men working for the government must wear special clothes on Fridays.
Slowly but surely, the country is Islamizing.
It is believed that this gradual Islamizing process by the Chechen regime is
done out of pragmatism, to satisfy pressures of Islamist groups that are still
very strong throughout the country. The pressures to transform Chechnya in
all-Islamic caliphate have long existed, and they persist under Kadyrov’s
government. The largest mosque in the Caucasus has been built in
Chechnya’s capital, Grozny. The young people are disappointed with both the
corrupt government and the unemployment situation.
All indigenous Christians are Muslim Background Believers, who suffer greatly
from government and family oppression. There are very few Chechen
Christian group meetings and those have no more than 3-5 members. Local
authorities and relatives monitor the activities of Christians and put great
pressure on them to return to Islam. As in other countries, Christian
persecution is not only religious but also political, since Christianity is
associated with Russia, with whom they had a war. Chechen believers whose
faith becomes public are seen as traitors to Islam and society.
Christian conversion is a great social disgrace on the family, and sometimes
the “guilty” are killed to restore honor. When someone is discovered to be a
Christian, he risks being killed by his own family members. Fellowship with
other believers is almost impossible as well as openly confessing one’s faith.
The Church endures much hardship. People who have become known as
Christians have received serious death threats and have had to leave the
country.
The general religious climate in Chechnya has always been Islamic, and the
influence of Islam is growing. The only thing that contains the islamization of
the country is its political dependence upon Russia, but the risk for a new
independent uprising is still present. Chechnya remains one of the most
difficult places for Christians in Russia.
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21. China
Though China has dropped out of the top twenty for the first time in the WWL,
this is due to persecution getting worse in other countries and the Chinese
situation remaining relatively stable. Debate does rage over whether it is
getting better, and indeed some commentators argue persecution is largely
over, or whether it is getting worse. The truth, as usual, is a mixture of both.
Freedom rising?
Christianity continues to grow very rapidly in China today. Figures from even
official sources released in 2011 show that 23 million belong to the registered
or official Chinese Protestant church, and that there are between 40-50 million
unregistered Christians. Some other estimates are much higher. The most
rapidly growing strand is the so called “third wave” churches, i.e., neither
official, nor rural, but primarily urban, a form of “emerging church” composed
of highly educated, young professionals that seek to be more open in their
worship and in their relationship with the state and commit to engage with
society’s needs. To keep from government interference, they generally cap their
meeting numbers at 200, though many in certain cities rent large premises for
Sunday meetings, exploiting a legal uncertainty as to whether these churches
may own property and function independently.
Over 450 foreign ministries work in China today. House church leaders may
hold conferences abroad, and frequently ask for help for their “primary
discipleship challenge—dealing with materialism.” Christian bosses often hold
Bible studies with their workers in factories. Some networks seek to offer
humanitarian aid. Christian bookstores are popping up throughout the
country; unprecedented access to sermons, Bible translations, even interactive
prayer and counselling, is possible through the Internet for millions of
Christians, though not all of them.
In addition, credible sources from the Open Doors network report that
government representatives have been carrying on an open dialogue with
selected house church leaders, leading many to believe that the government is
“finally understanding that the house church Christians are not a political
threat to the state.” One political leader was heard to warn his colleagues, “We
do not want to be fighting our friends.” Also, there is evidence that the
government needs to find allies to deal with the dangerous moral vacuum that
is developing as a result of “crony capitalism,” corruption and inequality, and it
may consider the church to be such a valuable ally. When house churches
assisted so prominently in the aftermath of the Sichuan earthquake in May
2008, many point to a change of attitude among political leaders from
negative to positive as a result.
Freedom worsening?
China is still a one-party state, with a government that fails to grant most
Christians their full religious rights. Even those who worship in officially
sanctioned churches are formally allowed to practice their faith only inside the
church building. The government prevented China’s Christian delegates from
travelling to a Cape Town gathering last October because they were forbidden
to sign the Lausanne Covenant ahead of the meeting, which mandated a far
broader commitment to evangelism than China would allow. Worse, it is a
government that is getting increasingly paranoid in the light of the Arab
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Spring, and the budget for internal security in the next five-year plan actually
surpasses the defense budget.
Headlines have been dominated in 2011 by a large independent house
church in Beijing, the Shouwang church. It was deliberately seeking to clarify
the legal position of house churches to determine if house churches could
own property without becoming part of the official church. After fruitlessly
seeking legal guidance from the authorities, they went ahead, refurbished a
third floor of a building and sought to buy it from a landlord. When the
landlord was willing to sell, the government stepped in to prevent the church
from buying it. The incident became a grim public spectacle on April 11 when
members attempted to meet in the new premises. They were barred, and a
group held services in protest in the open air. One of the pastors of the
1,000-strong congregation has been put under house arrest, and according
to China Aid more than 700 members have been detained for short periods
since then. It must be said that the Shouwang church is confronting the
government deliberately to gain clarity on whether a genuinely independent
status can be achieved for a house church, but it is a stance that has drawn
criticism from other house church leaders, one of whom said, “Look, you
have to play cat and mouse—we know we can worship if we don’t put a sign
up and or look too official.”
Nevertheless, more severe repression was a reality for some in the reporting
period, especially among those who seek to press for rights, justice and
supporting the Shouwang church. One pastor, Shi Enhao, was sentenced to
two years labor camp in July, supposedly for organizing “illegal meetings,” a
code for house churches. But the real reason was his belonging to an
organization called the Chinese House Church Alliance, where seventeen
pastors presented a petition to the national People’s Congress on May 10
calling for more freedom. The whereabouts of prominent Christian defense
lawyer Gao Zhisheng remains a mystery since his disappearance into police
custody in February 2009, and Chinese authorities remain tight-lipped despite
well-publicized appeals in 2011. Those who work with Uyghur churches face
severe harassment, as China clamps down on Muslim extremism. Xinjiang
house church leader Alimujiang Yimiti, jailed for 15 years in August of 2009
for allegedly “unlawfully providing state secrets to overseas organizations”
was told in February 2011 that his appeal had been unsuccessful. China Aid
organization said the number of Christians detained in the reporting period
exceeded 300 over eleven provinces, though few were sentenced.
Future Freedom?
Few expect major changes in the church-state dynamics in the coming years,
especially with the tense political environment that always precedes a top
leadership change (in Fall 2012 for the Party and in Spring 2013 for the
State). The Chinese Communist Party is not about to share power with any
group or institution any time soon, and as long as that is the case, the church
will be relatively free only insofar as it does not threaten the paranoia of the
Party. There is a space of opportunity for churches and ministries. But the
rules of engagement are never clear, and as the newer house churches seek
to press for more justice and influence in society, and encroach on activities
hitherto regarded as the monopoly of the state, it may get worse again.
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22. Qatar
The Economist Intelligence Unit summarizes the situation of Qatar as follows:
“The emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, will focus on economic and
foreign policy issues. However, given the ongoing regional social unrest, he will
be increasingly inclined to initiate domestic political reforms.” As in other Arab
countries, 2011 was characterized by unseen levels of social unrest, although in
the case of Qatar, the position of the reigning emir was never threatened. One
of the reasons that the reigning emir was never threatened was because he
raised the public sector salaries by 60%.
Nearly all Qatari citizens and nationals (approximately 225,000) are by
definition either Sunni or Shi'a Muslims, and the state religion is strictly
conservative Islam. The majority of the estimated more than 1.8 million people
in Qatar are foreigners on temporary employment contracts who are treated as
slaves. There are approximately 90,000 Christians in the country, most of them
foreign workers.
The Qatari Constitution declares that ‘freedom to practice religious rites shall
be guaranteed to all persons in accordance with the law and the requirements
of the maintenance of public order and morality.’ In reality, expat Christians are
restricted in practicing their faith. The government prohibits proselytizing of
non-Muslims and restricts public worship, which is usually only allowed in
assigned compounds. Foreign workers who evangelize are frequently deported.
Some have had the renewal of their visa denied afterwards. During the current
reporting period, several foreign workers were deported for their Christian
activities. Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox, Coptic, and Asian Christian churches
have legal status and only expats can attend. Recognition is hard to obtain, at
least 1,500 registered congregants are required.
A Muslim who converts from Islam to another religion is considered an
apostate and may face the death penalty. However, no execution or other
punishment for apostasy has been recorded since the country’s independence
in 1971. Nevertheless, converts face severe persecution from their families and
peers as well as from the government, which does not recognize their
conversion and considers them Muslims. From time to time, we receive reports
that Muslim Background Believers (MBBs) are being physically harmed for their
faith by family or peers, who view the conversion as harming the honor of the
family. As a result of this oppression, MBBs strongly protect their anonymity.
This year, the total of points for Qatar decreased slightly (47 versus 48.5 last
year) bringing the country from position 17 to 22. Yet this does not mean the
situation for Christians has improved. The minor decrease in points is explained
by the fact that we did not receive any reports of physical harm of Christians
(though it is very likely that this happens, especially to MBBs) and fewer
Christian foreign workers were deported for Christian activities than last year.
It is hard to tell what the future will look like for Qatar. As long as the people
are kept satisfied through increased salaries or “Arab Spring pay-offs,” the
status quo may well remain in the oil and gas rich Gulf state. However, since
the latest riots in the Middle East, the local population seems to becoming
more open to change and this may be the beginning of a more open attitude
towards the gospel as well.
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23. Algeria
Starting in December 2010, major protests in Algeria against the
authoritarian regime led to the lifting of the 19-year-old state of emergency,
imposed to help the Algerian authorities during a brutal conflict with Islamist
rebels in the 1990s. The protests, in which 5 people were killed and over 800
injured, were brought to a halt after only a few months due to massive police
repression. Unlike in neighboring countries, these protests did not bring
about a regime change. The military government headed by President
Abdelaziz Bouteflika is still largely in place and its continuity was not really
threatened by the lifting of the state of emergency, although it is of symbolic
importance.
Recent Algerian politics have been characterized by high levels of instability,
but oppression of Christians has been constant. Church leaders indicate that
there is an increase of pressure on Christians and that many doors are
closing. The very young Algerian church (mostly consisting of first generation
believers) faces many forms of discrimination by the state and by family
members. Islamist groups, particularly Salafists, encouraged by the Arab
Spring in other North African countries, are increasing their pressure on a
government that already works with Islamic parties; however, the Islamic
Salvation Front (FIS) is still forbidden. Islamists are becoming more and more
visible and monitor the activity of Christians.
Algeria dropped to position 24 after ranking 22nd on last year’s WWL, but it
increased in points. In 2011, the situation for Christians in Algeria
deteriorated slightly, with an increase in the number of reported incidents.
The court case of Karim Siaghi, a Christian convert who was sentenced to 5
years of prison in May, is an example of this. He gave a Christian CD to a
neighbor on his request who then claimed Siaghi had insulted Muhammad.
Another example of persecution is the church closures by the governor of
Bejaïa Province; he stated that all churches in the province were illegal
because they were unregistered. The government has not registered any new
churches since enforcing Ordinance 06-03 in February 2008, so many
Christian citizens continue to meet in unofficial "house churches," which are
often homes or business offices of church members. Some of these groups
meet openly, while others secretly hold worship services in homes.
The apparently positive news that the EPA (Algerian Protestant Church) finally
obtained registration after many years turned out to be a disappointment.
Although the exact reasons for the central government to recognize the EPA
as a council of Protestant churches are not known, it is believed that the
government wanted to give a good impression to the international
community. However, no real freedom was given and local churches must still
obtain their own registration. The recognition of the EPA did in fact bring
more control. On a local level oppression has intensified and no local
churches belonging to the EPA have been registered. There are reports of
local churches being closed and missionaries detained. The very restrictive
ordinance 06-03 that prohibits proselytizing is still enforced. For the coming
year, no dramatic improvements in the situation of Algerian Christians are
expected.