About 100 million Christians persecuted around the world: report

Tue Jan 8, 2013 1:11pm EST
 
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By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor

PARIS (Reuters) - About 100 million Christians are persecuted around the world, with conditions worsening for them most rapidly in Syria and Ethiopia, according to an annual report by a group supporting oppressed Christians worldwide.

Open Doors, a non-denominational Christian group, listed North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan as the three toughest countries for Christians last year. They topped the 50-country ranking for 2011 as well.

Syria jumped from 36th to 11th place on the list as its Christian minority, first suspected by rebels of close ties to the Assad government, has increasingly become a target for radical Islamist fighters, the report said.

Ethiopia, which is two-thirds Christian, shot up from 38th to 15th place in the ranking due to a "complex mix of persecution dynamics" including attacks by radical Islamists and reprisals by traditional Christians against new Protestant movements.

Mali came from no listing for 2011 to 7th place because the sharia rule the Islamist Ansar Dine group imposed on the north of the country not only brought harsh punishments for the Muslim majority but also drove the tiny Christian minority, it said.

"There are over 65 countries where Christians are persecuted," said the report released on Tuesday by Open Doors, which began in the 1950s smuggling Bibles into communist states and now works in more than 60 countries.

"An estimated 100 million Christians worldwide are persecuted," the United States-based group said in the report. All but one of the 50 countries in the list - Colombia, which ranked 46th - were in Africa, Asia or the Middle East.

Christianity is the largest and most widely spread faith in the world, with 2.2 billion followers or 32 percent of the world population, according to a report by the Washington-based Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.   Continued...