Conducted by Open Door , the annual list ranks countries according to the intensity of persecution Christians face for actively pursuing their faith.
For three years, the isolated, communist nation of North Korea remained atop in Open Doors' World Watch List of countries where Christians are persecuted because of their faith.
"For years, very little information about the Church emerged from Kim Il Sung's harsh North Korean regime, which is now ruled by his son, Kim Jong Il. Recent years, however, there have seen a relative flood of information coming from North Korean refugees fleeing to China. They report that the church has not only survived but grown. To visibly practise the Christian faith in North Korea today can still result in imprisonment and death", according to WWL.
Saudi Arabia retains the second followed by Laos, Vietnam, Iran, Turkmenistan, Maldives, Bhutan, Myanmar (Burma) and China.
Myanmar and China are the newcomers of the top 10 this year while Pakistan and Somalia fell out of the top 10. (Last year, Myanmar was ranked 13th while China was ranked 11th).
The shifting of China's rank is primarily due to the insistence of the compulsory registration of Christian groups."A national campaign to register house churches -thereby placing them under government control and supervision -is in operation. House church raids and arrests of Christian house church leaders and members continued. Also, the government started a campaign to actively promote 'orthodox atheist' communism through state media and denounce 'deviant' beliefs in an effort to restrict the influence of religious activity", according to WWL.
(Open Doors is an organization that strengthens persecuted Christians in the world's most difficult and dangerous areas through training, literature distribution, community development and personal encouragement.)