In a context of confusion and flashy journalism, rigour becomes a precious value.
“We can be the voice of those who cannot cry out by themselves”, the Director of Open Doors Spain says in an interview. “Nigeria is the country where most people have died because of their faith.”
Open Doors has published the 2016 World Watch List, an annual index of the 50 countries in the world where persecution is most severe for Christians. North Korea remains the most dangerous place on earth for Christians.
According to Open Doors, “religious fundamentalism has fuelled a rise in persecution in 80 per cent of the countries on the list.”
See what are the first 20 countries in the new WWL.
Ted Blake, Director of Open Doors Spain (Puertas Abiertas España), talked to Protestante Digital and asked Christians “to raise their voice in prayer. We can be the voice of those who cannot cry out by themselves.”
Question. Could you explain what is the World Watch List (WWL) published by Open Doors every year?
Answer. The list is made to raise awareness, so that the world knows that there are Christians persecuted because of their faith.
Besides, we want to provide a tool for the governments to be informed about the situation of Christians in many countries. There are governments that negotiate, and are trying to promote Human Rights worldwide. They use the information we provide through this study.
We also aim to inform the church and motivate Christians, so that they can do something for the persecuted Christians, telling others what is happening: praying or by any other activities.
Q. According to the 2016 list, the persecution of Christians has raised again. How do you interpret it?
A. The main reason is what we see every day in the news: the Islamic radicalisation. A group of people, with an extreme understanding of Islam, which lead them to exterminate Christians in places where they are a majority.
We see it with Daesh, but also in Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan, where they forbid Christianity. They try to eradicate the Christian faith inside their borders.
Q. The study says that the number of people killed for their faith has raised a 60%. More than 7,000 Christians have been killed. What is to be found behind this extreme violence against Christians?
A. The main driving force is Jihadism. 7,000 people is the figure we have been able to verify. There are countries, like North Korea, where accurate records do not exist, so there are probably many more deaths.
Besides what is happening in Daesh territories, other key point of Christian persecution is Nigeria. Although the situation there is lesser-known, it is the country where most people have died because of their faith.
Boko Haram is the main responsible, but not the only one, because the Fulani herders have also attacked Christians. 4,000 of the 7,000 have been killed in Nigeria, 70% by Boko Haram and 30% by Fulani herders.
Q. Iraq, Syria, Iran, Somalia or Eritrea are on the list, and they are also the countries of origin of many refugees who illegally arrive in Europe. Are Christians leaving their countries because of the persecution?
A. Sadly, many Christians, because of the oppression they suffer in their own countries, do not have any option but to leave their land and family. They leave everything they love to save their lives.
When we talk about persecution, we should keep in mind that we think of murder, churches and houses burnt, and violent acts. But that is only a part of the persecution Christians suffer.
In many places, having a Bible can be a reason to go to prison or be fined. Sometimes, there is persecution inside the families or the communities. Many people decide to leave to have more freedom.
Q. North Korea is at the top of the WWL again. Why is it still the country where most Christians are persecuted?
A. When we elaborate this study, we measure six persecution indicators: private life, family life, community life, relations with the government, church life, and violence.
North Korea got the highest score in the 5 first categories. Its control of the people is so big that the violence does not have a high score, because we really do not know what happens there. It is so difficult for Christians to live there, because the control over the North Korean society is so extreme.
We know cases of Christians parents who do not teach their faith to their children, so that they do not make any mistake in the control interviews carried out by the government regularly.
Despite all this, we estimate there are 300,000 Christians in the country, after 60 years of oppression.
Q. What measures do you think we can take to help the persecuted Christians?
A. The freedom we have is a responsibility. We should take measures, worry about those who suffer, and collaborate with God in the work He is doing. God works as an answer to our prayers. One of the most powerful things we can do is praying.
Sometimes God does not do more because we do not pray more. I ask Christians to raise their voice in prayer. We can be the voice of those who cannot cry out by themselves. There many Christians who cannot raise their voice.
We should tell the society and the governments that there is persecution, and demand that their freedom must be respected.