Closer Look At World Watch List

Severe Persecution Continues In China, Myanmar
( [email protected] ) May 31, 2004 01:23 PM EDT

Every year Open Doors with Brother Andrew compiles a World Watch List of 50 countries where persecution of Christians is the greatest. The most recent World Watch List was published by Open Doors in February. The following is a capsule look at the conditions in two of the Top 10 countries where persecution is the greatest, as reported by Open Doors. The two are No. 10 China and No. 9 Myanmar (Burma), as reported by Open Doors.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) recently released its annual report to Congress and the State Department naming 11 nations that abuse the religious freedom of their citizens. The list included China and Myanmar.

North Korea is ranked No. 1 on Open Doors’ World Watch List followed by Saudi Arabia, Laos, the Central Highlands of Vietnam, Iran, Turkmenistan, Maldives and Bhutan. Open Doors USA will offer information on more countries in the Top 10 over the next few months.

10. China – There was no significant change in the situation of religious liberty in China in 2003. Unregistered religious groups are considered illegal in the country. Registered churches, however, are controlled and regulated to prevent the rise of groups that could form an authority outside of the state’s control. Nevertheless, the membership of many Christian groups is growing. Under the new president, Hu Jintao, persecution of Christians has not decreased. House church raids and arrests of Christian house church leaders and members continued. A Christian woman was even beaten to death in custody.

A national campaign to register house churches – and thereby to place them under government control and supervision – is in operation. 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 Compass Direct, Chinese Christians gave evidence of persecution at a special meeting called by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights last month. They testified to beatings, imprisonment, torture and harassment.

9. Myanmar (Burma) – Myanmar has no constitution or laws to protect freedom of religion. The government imposes restrictions on certain religious activities and often violates the right to religious freedom. In this mainly Buddhist country, Christians face discrimination and restriction of education, evangelism and church construction activities. The government is opposed to the spread of Christianity. Thousands of young Christians are unemployed because of their faith and are pressured to convert to Buddhism.

Several Christian churches and homes were burned during 2003. Persecution is more severe among ethnic tribes such as the Karen. Apart from the ethnical motivations, there are also elements of anti-Christian persecution.