Κυριακή, 10 Ιανουαρίου 2010

Persecution List: N. Korea, Iran Top Oppressors of Christians


North Korea is for the eighth straight year the world’s top persecutor of Christians, according to Open Doors' 2010 World Watch List.

The notoriously restrictive regime bans all religions other than a semi-personality cult centered around the current leader, Kim Jong-Il, and his father, Kim Il-Sung. It is illegal to be a Christian in North Korea and authorities have executed people found to possess a Bible.

An estimated 40,000 to 60,000 Christians are currently in prison labor camps because of their faith.

“Christians are the target of fierce government action, and once caught, are not regarded as human,” said a veteran North Korean watcher, who is not identified for security reasons, to Open Doors. “Last year we had evidence that some were used as guinea pigs to test chemical and biological weapons.”

Carl Moeller, president/CEO of Open Doors USA, commented that it is “certainly not a shock” that North Korea is ranked No. 1 on the list.

“There is no other country in the world where Christians are persecuted in such a horrible and systematic manner,” Moeller said. “Three generations of a family are often thrown into prison when one member is incarcerated.”

But Moeller noted that despite the intense persecution, the group of Christians in North Korea is “strong” and actually growing in number.

Following North Korea on the World Watch List is Iran, which jumped to the No. 2 spot from No. 3.

Open Doors explained that Iran moved up because of the increased number of arrests of Christians beginning in 2008 and continuing into 2009. At least 85 Christians were arrested in Iran during this time period, the watchdog reported.

Among those arrested were two young women who converted from Islam to Christianity. The case of Maryam Rustampoor and Marzieh Amirzadeh, who were released two months ago, attracted international attention. Open Doors was among the groups that advocated for the release of the two women who were arrested simply for being Christian.

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