Open Doors recently unleashed its 2020 World Watch List identifying the nations where it's most dangerous to be a Christian … and found the overall treatment of Christians and other religious groups for practicing their faith is getting worse.
Even though the dictatorial rule under North Korea's Kim Jung Un remains the worst – at number one on the list – communist China continues to rise on the list as its crackdown on Christianity becomes more and more severe, rising from 27th ranking last year to 23rd of 50 on this year's World Watch List.
Persecution of believers can take many forms, including imprisonment, loss of home and assets, torture, rape and death – as a result of their faith.
China going from bad to worse
Open Doors president and CEO David Curry lamented how communism in China is causing it to force Christians to worship the nation's leaders above God, while increasingly punishing those who do not submit.
"The Chinese government is nearly single-handedly responsible for the steep increase in churches and Christian buildings attacked in 2019," Curry announced in an Open Doors press release. "Their newest policies are penalizing minority Christians in unprecedented ways. If they continue down this path, they will be the single largest violator of human rights worldwide."
He emphasized how China's abuses may adversely affect America's trade with the economic giant.
"Phase one of the United States' new trade deal with China doesn't change the fact that China is a massive violator of human rights – particularly religious freedom violations against Christians, Muslims and Tibetans," Curry added. "Phase two must address this if we are to see normalized relations."
At a recent press conference in Washington, DC, Assistant Secretary of State Robert Destro and Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Alabama) commented on China's worsening conditions for Christians, which was corroborated by three Chinese Christians who suffered persecution for practicing their faith.
"Christians in China face persecution mostly because of the continuing and intensifying emphasis on ideology and the overarching goal of preserving the rule of the Communist Party in a country where more than 97 million people now identify as Christian," Open Doors reported.
"Based on the World Watch List data, China saw a steep increase in the number of attacks on churches within the last year, whereas there were 1,847 attacks reported on churches worldwide in 2019, in 2020, this number is conservatively estimated to be at least 5,576 in China alone."
Last year, Chinese authorities ramped up their efforts to make sure communist leadership is revered above God.
"Policies enacted by the Communist Party in 2018 aimed to Sinicize the church have been enforced in more and more territories, resulting in the dramatic increase of persecution against Christians," the ministry serving the persecuted Church informed. "These regulations on religion are strictly applied, increasingly spread throughout the country, and seriously limit freedom."
Besides enforcing a policy that no children under 18 years of age are permitted in church, China has shut down more than 5,500 churches nationwide, with Christians living in at least 23 provinces reporting being shuttered or harassed in some way.
"Places of worship are monitored, and pastors are increasingly being asked to register with the government – if they refuse, they risk church closure and arrest," Open Doors noted. "China's technologically advanced system of control and surveillance also impacts the church, as registered churches are required to allow cameras in services to monitor congregants."
Across the board, China is being exposed as one of the world's worst offenders of religious liberty.
"The pressure to fall in line with the prevailing ideology of praising the achievements of the Communist Party has become much stronger and poses one of the greatest long-term risks for Christians in China," the California-based nonprofit organization explained.
"China also landed in the top 10 on charts for other violent behaviors tracked by the 2020 World Watch List, including the number of Christians sentenced to jail or labor camp for faith-related reasons, those detained without trial for faith-related reasons, and those physically or mentally abused for faith-related reasons."
The top 10 offenders on this year's World Watch List are:
- North Korea