Afghanistan has passed North Korea atop Open Doors USA’s World Watch List of worst nations in the world to be a Christian for 2022.
This marks the first time in twenty years that the authoritarian dictatorship as not topped the list.
Before the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan this summer, the Muslim-majority nation was ranked second on the Open Doors list as the majority of Christians convert from Islam and so are seen as apostates.
When the last of U.S. forces pulled out in August after the Taliban seized control of the country, the church had already been operating largely underground and those who had not been airlifted in hurried evacuation efforts were forced into hiding.
“When the Taliban took over Afghanistan in August 2021, Christians knew they were in immediate danger. Some fled; some ran, but couldn’t get out; and others decided to stay, knowing they were committing to a place where they could be killed for their faith at any moment,” the report states.
“The risk of discovery has only increased, since the Taliban controls every aspect of government—including paperwork from international troops that may help identify Christians,” it also explains.
“The Taliban will make sure that Islamic rules and customs are implemented and kept. Christian converts don’t have any option but to obey them,” the organization says. “If a Christian’s new faith is discovered, their family, clan or tribe has to save its honor by disowning the believer, or even killing them. This is widely considered to be justice. Alternatively, since leaving Islam is considered a sign of insanity, a Christian who has converted from Islam may be forcibly sent to a psychiatric hospital.”
North Korea may have been supplanted as the worst country for Christians, but persecution has by no means decreased.
Christians are still arrested and house churches shut down as the country works to target “reactionary thought.” The Bible is banned.
Open Doors President David Curry said at an online news conference that the persecution is the same between the two countries, but Afghanistan’s violence against Christians sets it apart.
“They’re the same in North Korea and Afghanistan until you get to violence, and this year the violence has been more dramatic in Afghanistan,” he said, according to Religion News Service.
Globally, the group says that killings of Christians increased by 24%, the vast majority of which took place in Nigeria, which is ranked seven on the list.
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