January 16, 2019
While Americans stop to celebrate Religious Freedom Day, there are 245 million Christians around the world who would give anything to experience even the smallest taste of it. That was one of the more startling findings of Open Doors 2019 World Watch List. The other? Christian persecution is getting worse. Almost half (73) of the 150 countries they studied showed "extreme," "very high," or "high levels" of persecution. Last year, it was 58.
The persecution has a particularly harsh impact on women in many places. In some areas, like North Korea, that trend isn't as pronounced, since all believers are persecuted there. But it shows up in plenty of other places (many governed by radical Islam) in ways like forced marriages. At the report's unveiling at Heritage Foundation, Open Doors' David Curry talked about a girl named Esther who was abducted by Boko Haram and ordered to renounce her faith. When she refused, they raped her multiple times and sent her back to her village, pregnant, and a subject of shame in that culture.
India is increasingly problematic, and is #10 on the list because the prime minister's party is responsible for whipping up anti-Christian and pro-Hindu rhetoric. In his remarks, Curry specifically appealed to major Indian-American businesspeople like Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Indra Nooyi (a woman who is a former CEO of Pepsi and perhaps next head of World Bank), and Google CEO Sundar Pichai -- and encouraged them to speak out against the Christian persecution in India.
For now, North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Pakistan remain in spots #1, #2, #3, and #5. Libya jumped from #7 last year to #4 on this year's list (due to an increasingly brutal culture of radical Islam with regard to Christians). Elsewhere, Sudan dropped from #4 to #6, while Syria rose four spots to #11. India, Iran, and Yemen each bumped up one spot, and Nigeria bumped up 2 spots.
As we've said before, America's silence under the last administration led to a rise in the global threat that Donald Trump is now working furiously to control. Conservative leaders like retired Rep. Frank Wolf spent the better part of Obama's two terms begging him to get off the sidelines and defend the persecuted church. But if the president wouldn't recognize the First Freedom of Americans here at home, how could he fight for the world's?
Fortunately, the current White House has no interest in tip-toeing around the issue of persecution. President Trump has been a staunch advocate for the persecuted, and we look forward to all that he, Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Ambassador Sam Brownback will do to highlight the issue at the second annual Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, just announced today.
In the meantime, FRC's Travis Weber says, the Open Doors Watch List should serve as "a reminder to all of us in the United States to never take our freedom for granted. Indeed, we must use our freedom to advocate for freedom of religion for all around the world, even as we guard against its infringement here at home."
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.