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Persecution of Christians: North Korea tops list with Cuba and Nicaragua

By Mariana Braga

North Korea, some countries in Africa and Afghanistan are at the top of the persecution ranking prepared by the Open Doors Mission.

Nicaragua, Cuba and Colombia climbed positions and gained prominence on the list.

More than 360 million Christians face high levels of persecution and discrimination because of their faith. That number represents one in seven Christians worldwide.

, Persecution of Christians: North Korea tops list with Cuba and Nicaragua
Christians in Nigeria celebrate mass despite the destruction of the church (Photo internet reproduction)

The World Persecution List (WL) 2023 is in its 30th edition and covers the period from October 1, 2021 to September 30, 2022.

For the general secretary of Portas Abertas in Brazil, Marco Cruz, the ranking is a reference of what has been happening on the international scene.

“The growth of violence, wars, famine and ethnic and religious persecution is reflected in the work of Portas Abertas, which uses information from the countries in which it operates to effectively work and support persecuted Christians”, he explains.


North Korea is back in the top spot, where – with the exception of the last reporting period – it has remained since 2002. This year, the country sees its highest ever persecution score. This reflects an increase in arrests of Christians and more underground churches uncovered and closed down.

“Prison means execution or life imprisonment in one of the country’s horribly inhumane camps for political prisoners, where prisoners face starvation, forced labor, torture and sexual violence,” the report describes.

The new increase comes with the application of the new “Anti-Reactionary Thinking Law”, which criminalizes any material published of foreign origin in North Korea, in addition to the Bible, which has been banned in the country for many years.

This led to the arrest or execution of teenagers who watched South Korean shows such as Round 6 (Squid Game). However, it is also being used to track Bibles or any other Christian material, whether printed or electronic.

“Christians have always been at the forefront of the regime’s attack. Their goal is to wipe out all Christians in the country. There can only be one god in North Korea, and that is the Kim family,” reveals Timothy Cho, a North Korean fugitive.


The region faces a vast humanitarian catastrophe, as a wave of religious violence fueled in Nigeria (7) has swept the region, hitting Christian populations at an alarming rate in countries such as Burkina Faso (23), Cameroon (45), Mali (17 ) and Niger (28).

Signs of expanding Islamic radicals are also clearly visible in Mozambique (32), the Democratic Republic of Congo (37) and other countries. (The numbers in parentheses represent the positions they occupy in the LMP).

Violence against Christians in sub-Saharan Africa has reached alarming new levels as violent Islamist militants destabilize the region using extreme violence.

Violence is most extreme in Nigeria, where militants from the Fulani, Boko Haram, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) and others have raided Christian communities, killing, maiming, sexually assaulting and kidnapping mostly women and girls.

Religiously motivated killings in Nigeria rose from 4,650 last year to 5,014 – 89% of the international total. This violence has forced hundreds of thousands of Nigerians to take refuge.

The Nigerian government continues to deny that this is religious persecution, so violations of Christian rights go unpunished.

“Violence against Christians continues to rise and, if you look at it, Nigeria is – for the second consecutive year – the country with the highest number of Christians murdered for their faith. The country is responsible for 89% of the deaths of Christians for their faith worldwide”, points out Cruz.


Afghanistan dropped from number 1 in 2022 to number 9 on this year’s list. However, the sharp drop does not mean that the Afghan Christian is no longer facing extreme persecution.

After the brutal coup in 2021, many Christians were executed, while the Taliban went door to door to root out Christians. Many went into hiding or fled abroad.

Throughout 2022, the Taliban’s focus has intensified to eradicate those with ties to the former regime, rather than eradicating the very small number of Christians remaining.

“Our situation is desperate. My mother and I managed to cross the border into another country. I’m praying that I can leave this country and go somewhere safe. I may have to go into hiding or I will be deported to Afghanistan. If that happens, I could be killed,” laments Zabi, an Afghan Christian refugee.


Of the Latin American countries that were already on the World List last year, all of them increased their position significantly: Cuba was the one that grew the most in the ranking, rising from 37th to 27th position.

This was due to increased pressure and violence, as the dictatorship intensified its repressive tactics against all Christian leaders and activists who oppose communist principles.

Colombia rose eight positions, moving from 30th to 22nd; Mexico from 43rd to 38th.

And the new country in the region to make up the LMP2023 is Nicaragua.

Direct government oppression of Christians seen as voices of opposition is common in Nicaragua where Christian leaders have been jailed without trial for their participation in the 2022 demonstrations. of Watching Countries.

“Latin America is also a region that deserves special attention this year. Direct government oppression of Christians seen as voices of opposition is common in countries with authoritarian regimes in Latin America. In addition, organized crime has set in, especially in rural areas for Christians who demonstrate against the activities of the cartels”, concludes Marco Cruz.

With information from Gazeta do Povo

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