The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) warns that Christian persecution is rising in different countries in the world. In its latest report released this April, the commission lists the countries that are grossly violating religious freedom.
One of the 17 countries flagged as Countries of Particular Concern (CPCs) due to “systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations” of the right to freedom of religion or belief is Myanmar. Following the Buddhist country’s military coup in 2021, Christians and other religious minorities are being targeted by the government—at least nine Catholic churches were destroyed in Kayah State and more Christians have been displaced and are living without proper food and healthcare. Some communities bar Christian families from using community water resources.
USCIRF is disheartened by the deteriorating conditions for freedom of religion or belief in some countries. —Nury Turkel, Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom
According to the USCIRF report, “In 2022, religious freedom in Burma [Myanmar] continued to decline significantly. Under the territory that the military controls, it has significantly cracked down on all dissent and freedom.
The government violently targeted houses of worship belonging to religious minorities throughout the year and its forces have also burned villages of religious minorities and destroyed homes and houses of worship and schools in the process.”
Churches and other institutions in predominantly Christian states like Kachin, Kayah, Karen and Chin have been attacked and people killing Christians are not punished.
Open Doors UK interviewed Naomi, a pastor’s wife living in Myanmar, about the persecution Christians face in the country. “There are nine Buddhist monasteries and schools in this village. But people here also worship their forefathers, the demons, and deities,” she said. “If they hate someone, they are not afraid to kill them, no remorse nor guilt. That’s the way it is here.”
Another in the list of CPC is North Korea. Number 1 in Open Door’s World Watch List, North Korea is notorious for its human rights violations, especially to Christians.
“Detention periods have been documented as being longer for Christians than other groups, and witnesses have reported that ‘identified Christians are interrogated for longer periods, usually under torture’, and subjected to some of the worst forms of torture to force them to incriminate others during interrogation,” according to the 2022 report by The International Bar Association and The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea.
The latest incident of Christian persecution in the hermit country is the imprisonment for life of a two-year-old after the child’s parents were found with the Bible. Jailed Christians in political prison camps suffer maltreatment and physical abuse.
“The right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion [in North Korea] also continues to be denied, with no alternative belief systems tolerated by the authorities,” said António Guterres, the United Nations secretary-general on the report.
Other countries in the CPC list include: China, Eritrea, India,Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Syria, Vietnam and Iran.
“USCIRF is disheartened by the deteriorating conditions for freedom of religion or belief in some countries — especially in Iran, where authorities harassed, arrested, tortured, and sexually assaulted people peacefully protesting against mandatory hijab laws, alongside their brutal continuing repression of religious minority communities,” USCIRF Chair Nury Turkel said in a statement.