Reported cases of Christians killed for their faith around the world doubled in 2013 compared to 2012, with killings in Syria numbering more than the global total of 2012, according to an annual survey by the nondenominational Christian group Open Doors.
Open Doors documented 2,123 martyr killings in 2013 compared to 1,201 in 2012. Syria alone accounted for 1,213 deaths in 2013. The numbers are based on media reports and considered a minimum count.
“Often completely unaddressed in the West is the fact that Christians are the largest persecuted minority in the world,” Open Doors USA President/CEO David Curry said in a statement. “The 2014 World Watch List is a wakeup call to Americans to become more aware of these atrocities and restrictions on religious freedom.”
According to The Pew Research Center, nearly 75 percent of the world’s population lives in areas with severe religious restrictions.
The United States-based group considers persecution of Christians any denying protection of religious freedom, preventing someone from converting to Christianity because of legal or social threats, physically attacking or killing because of the victim’s faith, forcing one to leave a job or home under threat of violence because of the victim’s faith, or imprisonment, interrogation or torture for refusing to deny one’s faith.
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The Open Doors 2014 World Watch List (WWL) ranks 50 countries where persecution of Christian denominations is the heaviest.
In 2013, the top 10 countries where Christians faced the most persecution were North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Maldives, Pakistan, Iran and Yemen.
Open Doors estimates 50,000 to 70,000 Christians live in concentration camps, prisons and prison-like circumstances in North Korea. Syria climbed to third from 11th in 2012, as foreign-supported jihadi groups invade Christian communities. Syria had the most deaths, followed by Nigeria with 612.
“Overwhelmingly, the main engine driving persecution of Christians in 36 of the top 50 countries is Islamic extremism, with the most violent region being the states of the African Sahel belt where a fifth of the world’s Christians meet one-seventh of the world’s Muslims in perilous proximity,” the Open Doors report stated.
Two other countries that rose significantly on the list from 2012 are Colombia (25th) and Sri Lanka (29th). Anti-Christian violence has arisen in Sri Lanka from a Buddhist nationalist movement.