Serving persecuted Christians worldwide

2012: January: Open Doors works with the world’s most oppressive
countries, strengthening Christians to stand strong in the
face of persecution and equipping them to shine Christ’s
light in these dark places. The greatest challenge to Christians living under tyranny
and oppression is isolation – from God’s Word and from
the body of Christ. Where other Christian organizations
cannot enter or have been forced to flee by oppressive
governments or cultures, Open Doors can often be found
– supplying Bibles, training Christian leaders, developing
Christian communities and ensuring prayer, presence and
advocacy for these suffering believers.
When these Christians are strengthened in the Lord, they
begin to demonstrate God’s forgiveness and reach out in
love, even to their oppressors.
About the List. The World Watch List (WWL) is a ranking of 50 countries
where persecution of Christians for religious reasons is
worst. First of all, the list covers persecution of Christians
of all denominations in the entire country. The focus is on
persecution for their faith, not persecution for political,
economic, social, ethnic or accidental reasons.
The witness of persecuted
Christians has a unique
power to reach a new
generation of lives and
communities that would
otherwise never be open to the gospel -
but they cannot do it alone.
COPYRIGHT ©2012 OPEN DOORS INTERNATIONAL
Serving persecuted Christians worldwide
OpenDoorsUSA.org 2012, January
WWL Report, January 2012
R: RANK
COUNTRY
RANKING 2011
1 NORTH KOREA 1
2 AFGHANISTAN 3
3 SAUDI ARABIA 4
4 SOMALIA 5
5 IRAN 2
6 MALDIVES 6
7 UZBEKISTAN 9
8 YEMEN 7
9 IRAQ 8
10 PAKISTAN 11
11 ERITREA 12
12 LAOS 10
13 NORTHERN NIGERIA 23
14 MAURITANIA 13
15 EGYPT 19
16 SUDAN 35
17 BHUTAN 14
18 TURKMENISTAN 15
19 VIETNAM 18
20 CHECHNYA 20
21 CHINA 16
22 QATAR 17
23 ALGERIA 22
24 COMOROS 21
25 AZERBAIJAN 24
26 LIBYA 25
27 OMAN 26
28 BRUNEI 29
29 MOROCCO 31
30 KUWAIT 28
31 TURKEY 30
32 INDIA 32
33 BURMA / MYANMAR 27
34 TAJIKISTAN 33
SEVERE PERSECUTION: OPPRESSION
SEVERE LIMITATIONS: SOME LIMITATIONS
SOME PROBLEMS: 35 TUNISIA 37 36 SYRIA 38 The World Watch
List represents: 37 UNITED ARAB EMIRATES 34 38 ETHIOPIA 43 39 DJIBOUTI 39 40 JORDAN 40 where persecution
41 CUBA 41 of Christians is
42 BELARUS 42 43 INDONESIA 48 44 PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES 44 45 KAZAKHSTAN 46 BAHRAIN 47 COLOMBIA 48 KYRGYZSTAN 46 49 BANGLADESH 47 50 MALAYSIA 50
COPYRIGHT ©2012 OPEN DOORS INTERNATIONAL
the 50 countries
the worst.
45
Serving persecuted Christians worldwide: OpenDoorsUSA.org
2012: January
Table of Contents
World Watch List 2012 Countries
North Korea
Afghanistan
Saudi Arabia
Somalia
Iran
Maldives
Uzbekistan
Yemen
Iraq
Pakistan
Eritrea
Laos
Northern Nigeria
Mauritania
Egypt
Sudan
Bhutan
Turkmenistan
Vietnam
Chechnya
China
Qatar
Algeria
Comoros
Azerbaijan
Libya
Oman
Brunei
Morocco
Kuwait
Turkey
India
Burma/Myanmar
Tajikistan
Tunisia
Syria
United Arab Emirates
Ethiopia
Djibouti
Jordan
Cuba
Belarus
Indonesia
Palestinian Territories
Kazakhstan
Bahrain
Colombia
Kyrgyzstan
Bangladesh
Malaysia
The Main Persecutor of Christians
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1. North Korea
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, North Korea tops the World Watch List yet again as
the worst country in the world in which to live as a Christian. Defiantly Communist in the
Stalinist style, a bizarre quasi-religion was built around the founder of the country, Kim Il
Sung. Anyone with “another god” is automatically persecuted, which is why the 200-
400,000 Christians in this country must remain deeply underground. If one takes the lower
number as the total, then a staggering 25% at least are believed to languish in labor camps
for their refusal to worship Kim Il Sung’s cult. So thorough is the anti-Christian campaign
that even North Koreans born today whose grandparents were Christian are earmarked for
low level jobs, which is highly ironic as Kim Il Sung’s mother was a Presbyterian deaconess.
The cult of Kim Il Sung has become unsustainable. Visitors to the capital Pyongyang this year
saw banners declaring, “The Eternal Father is always with us.” In April 2012 the government
is promising a celebration of “epic proportions” for the 100th anniversary of Kim Il Sung’s
birth – a celebration this impoverished nation cannot afford. The UN estimates that roughly
half of its 20 plus million inhabitants are malnourished, and famine is stalking the country
again, with credible reports of thousands existing on diets of grass and tree bark.
Kim Il Sung died in 1994, and his son and successor Kim Jong Il died suddenly on the 17th of
December 2011 of a heart attack at the age of 69. However he had taken steps to ensure his
succession, when in the Fall of 2010 his youngest son, Kim Jong Un, in his late twenties, was
unveiled and then was made a four star general at the conclave of the Korean Worker’s Party
in the Spring of 2011. Credible reports suggest this young man is effectively leading the
country, and that this is likely to be even worse news for Christians. He has been quoted as
saying that he only needs about 30% of the population to survive, and he is believed to have
been behind the sending of a hundred extra spies to China to infiltrate Christian networks
that seek to help refugees. A South Korean Christian missionary in Dangdong, China, was
reportedly assassinated by these spies in August.
North Korea has severe economic woes. Everyone needs some kind of black
market trade to survive. For this reason, the regime seeks to court foreign
aid and will often indulge in window dressing measures to secure it. As part
of this strategy, four churches have been opened in Pyongyang, two are
Protestant, one Catholic and one Russian Orthodox., but there is no
compelling evidence that they are anything more than sightseeing spots for
foreigners. Nevertheless, the North Korean regime is so desperate for aid
that various Christian NGO’s are allowed to operate in the country. Half the
population lives in the northern two-fifths of the country, adjacent to China,
where the nation’s natural resources, such as coal, oil, tungsten, are
concentrated. It is here that family based networks of house churches exist
in significant numbers, and many families are allowed to visit China to get
food from relatives. This results in a pipeline of support, which is constantly harassed by
officials. There were reports of many arrests in the period surveyed, but due to the secrecy
that Christians must preserve to protect their activities, it is impossible or unwise to report
the true extent of the statistics.
As if it needed saying, conditions did not improve in the reporting period for Christians and
North Korea remains the most hostile state in which to practice the Christian faith. Neither
are they likely to in 2012 as Kim Jong Un attempts to consolidates power. It is not a
foregone conclusion that he will however, though most North Korea watchers believe that
the most important regional power—China—will prevent regime collapse. In the ensuing
uncertainty, Christianity will remain a deeply underground yet vibrant faith for the
foreseeable future.
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2. Afghanistan
The total number of points for Afghanistan increased slightly and thus the
country overtook Iran this year, taking it from third position to second on
the World Watch List 2012. The reason for this shift is a further deterioration
of the situation.
Ten years after the Taliban regime was dispelled from the country by
international forces, the situation remains desolate, especially for minority
groups, including the small Christian community. Despite having signed all
international agreements designed to protect the freedom of religion, the
government in the current setting is not even able to guarantee the most
basic tenants of this right. On the contrary: being recognized as a Christian
immediately places any believer in a very difficult position.
All Afghan Christians come from a Muslim background. If it becomes known
that someone has converted to Christianity, he or she will face heavy societal
and familial pressure. If believers are discovered, they face discrimination by
their family and community, as well as local authorities and Muslim clergy.
They will be put under pressure to recant their faith. Under such
circumstances the tiny Christian minority cannot meet in public. Meetings in
private homes are possible, yet require great caution. Consequently, not a
single official church building remains, not even for the expatriate believers.
The Afghan government treats converts in a hostile manner and will use
every means to bring them back to the Islamic faith. This has been proven
again in the reporting period by the examples of two Muslim-background
believers (MBBs) who were freed only due to enormous international efforts.
Once a Christian is discovered, it is very difficult for him to stay in his
homeland.
Open hostility, however, is not confined to the authorities. Although the
Taliban was weakened and forced into hiding for a time, the terrorist group
is regaining strength. In October they issued a statement via one of their
websites vowing to purge all Christians from the country—whether foreign
or local. They emphasized targeting foreign relief organizations and non-
governmental organizations, accusing them of evangelizing Afghans. The
Taliban named about 200 organizations, further stating that they have a
plan to target the groups one by one. Christian relief workers continue to be
a prime target for all kinds of insurgents. In August 2011, two German
development aid workers were kidnapped in the province of Parwan, north
of Kabul. Both were shot and their bodies were found on September 5.
There were additional reports of kidnappings and other difficulties, which
show the tenuous situation of all Christians, expatriates as well as locals.
International forces will continue their withdrawal in the coming years. This
could mean an increased Taliban influence in the country, which will
negatively impact the rights of minority groups, including Christians.
Pressure on believers in Pashtu areas is even more alarming than in other
areas of the country.
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3. Saudi Arabia
PEW Research Forum labels Saudi Arabia as one of the countries with “very high”
government restrictions on religion, based on the fact it does not include any provisions for
religious freedom in its constitution and basic laws. Saudi Arabia also ranks as “high” in
PEW Forum’s Social Hostilities Index, which means the country is part of the 15% of the
countries of the world where anti-religious sentiments are very strong in all parts of society.
Religious freedom does not exist in this heartland of Islam where citizens are only allowed
to adhere to one religion. No legal protection is provided for freedom of religion, nor does
this protection exist in practice. The legal system is based on Islamic law (sharia).
Apostasy—conversion to another religion—is punishable by death if the accused does not
recant. Although the government recognizes the right of non-Muslims to worship in
private, the religious police “the Muttawa” often does not respect this right. The public
practice of non-Muslim worship is prohibited as well in Saudi Arabia. Worshippers who
engage in such activities risk arrest, imprisonment, lashing, deportation, and sometimes
torture. Believers from a Muslim background also run the great risk of honor killing if their
family or community discovers their faith.
Most Christians in Saudi Arabia are expatriates who live and work temporarily in the
country. The majority of them are from the Philippines. These foreign workers, besides
being exploited and poorly paid, are regularly exposed to verbal and physical violence
because of their Christian faith. Migrant domestic workers are even threatened with rape
unless they convert to Islam. There are a number of converts from Islam who live their faith
in deepest secret. However, their number is increasing recently and they are also becoming
bolder about their faith. We received reports of several Christians being physically harmed
for their faith. The total number of Christians facing this kind of persecution is probably a
lot higher, but it is hard to receive sufficient information on this from a closed country like
the Wahhabist Kingdom. A number of Christians fled the country because of oppression for
faith-related reasons. In some cases their lives are at risk.
Yohan Nese, 31 and Vasantha Sekhar Vara, 28, were arrested on Jan. 21, 2011, for
attending a prayer meeting with other Indian nationals and accused of converting Muslims
to Christianity. Religious police interrogated and beat them and they were kept in horrible
conditions in prison. On May 30, Vasantha was released and on July 12, Yohan was
released. Both returned to India. On February 12, a foreign worker was arrested in Jeddah
after discussing faith issues with Muslims close to a mosque. At first he faced the death
penalty, but it was ultimately decided to deport him to his home country. Because of these
arrests, the points for Saudi Arabia increased somewhat compared to the previous WWL
reporting period (64.5 last year versus 67.5 this year) when we did not receive any reports
of arrests of Christians. This brings Saudi Arabia from position four to position three in the
current WWL.
“The rule of the Al Saud family will face a number of challenges in 2012-16, including a
potentially fractious succession process and wider demands for political reform. Despite the
holding of the country's second municipal elections on September 29, the Economist
Intelligence Unit (EUI) does not expect any democratic reform or any move to an elected
parliament before 2016,” states an EIU brief. If the political situation does not change, the
situation for Christians is not expected to improve, as the country seems to be heading for
some more years of regime continuity. As the number of Christian converts from Islam is
increasing, along with their boldness in sharing their new faith, Christians face the risk of
more persecution and oppression in Saudi Arabia in the near future.
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4. Somalia
Somalia went from position 5 to 4 in the WWL 2012. The overall
persecution situation in Somalia tightened a bit more in the country. The
main persecution engine is Islamic extremism.
Talking about restrictions on the Church does not make much sense in
Somalia. Somalia does not have a traditional church. No one is expected
to be a Christian in Somalia, so Muslim-background believers (MBBs) do
not have organized church groups. They exist as individual secret
believers, and can only know a few others to make a small secret group.
The largest known group in Somalia is composed of five believers. It is
extremely difficult to live as secret believers in a country like Somalia
because of the atmosphere of terror and fear around being a Christian.
For parents, living as secret believers is even more difficult: it is
dangerous to raise their children as Christians for fear of being
discovered and executed.
Somalia is a difficult "country" to assess. Somalia comprises several
distinct areas (though some of the borders are disputed). In
Somaliland, which does not host the Islamic extremist group al-
Shabaab, one can speak about a stern Islamic regime where social
groups (including family) and government encourage each other to
minimize space for Christians, especially MBBs. Puntland compares to
Somaliland. The difference with Somaliland, however, is that due to
the lawlessness in Puntland, this area is the safe haven of pirates and
also al-Shabaab. In those parts of the south controlled by al-Shabaab,
the situation appears even worse - MBBs who are discovered are at
serious risk of “honor killings.” Al-Shabaab is enforcing a harsh
interpretation of sharia in the territories it controls. This militia was
strongly radicalized through external influence of al-Qaeda in recent
years. Because of that its support among the local population is waning.
One may suspect that the image of al-Shaabab has not improved during
the recent drought crisis in the country, when the militia obstructed
humanitarian aid from the West. At the same time however al-Shabaab
is effectively trying to wipe out Christianity from the parts of the country
it controls.
Numerous people have fled within the country and outside the country
for food, ethnic and political reasons as well as for their faith. In such
situations the vulnerability of Christians (and adherents of other
minority religions) to armed groups, local leaders and individuals is
enormous. The impact of this “horrific scenario” on Christians can only
be imagined but is not sufficiently covered in this WWL summary.
The Constitution, approved by the President in 1979, provided for
religious freedom. However, after the subsequent wars, Somalia now
has a Transitional Federal Government (TFG). The TFG is the “Islamic
Courts Union” (ICU) reincarnated, with an extremist interpretation of
Islamic law. The stronger the policies of the TFG against Christians, the
more acceptable it has been to the Muslim extremists. On the other
hand, the very strict application of Islamic law is tempered because TFG
needs the international community in order to stay in power.
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The TFG has not allowed Christians to openly practice their beliefs in Somalia,
and if anyone is a Christian, his (or her) rights of religion will not be
guaranteed. Still the impression is that TFG, the official government itself, is not
very active against believers - it has other issues to deal with. This is but little
consolation because the TFG is locked up in the capital, and armed groups and
local leaders have a free hand. Until August 2011 the TFG controlled only 10%
of Mogadishu, the capital, but the international forces have managed to
capture over 95% of the city. The Kenyan Defence Forces’ incursion in Somalia
has seen the territory under al-Shabaab significantly reduced.
Al-Shabaab has been weakened by a series of events, compounded by the
deaths of its leaders Osama bin Laden and Faizul Muhammad, the withdrawal
of support from Eritrea, the apathy of Somalia, and the shift of political
aspirations of Somali people. However al-Shabaab still remains a regional
threat because of the many foreigners it is recruiting from Kenya, Uganda,
Pakistan and other countries.
Open Doors does not expect a significant change for good in the persecution
situation in Somalia, neither in the short nor in the medium term. Chaos
normally creates more chaos; Christians as adherents of a minority religion are
normally extra vulnerable in those circumstances. However we expect that if the
Transitional Federal Government forces backed by the international forces
continue to take control and keep al-Shabaab at bay, the persecution may
decrease a little.
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5. Iran
Religious persecution of certain minorities has intensified in Iran since 2005.
This is particularly aimed at the Baha'i, at Sufi Muslims and at Christians,
especially MBBs. According to the state, only Armenians and Assyrians can be
Christian - ethnic Persians are by definition Muslim, and therefore ethnic
Persian Christians are by definition apostates. This makes almost all Christian
activity illegal, especially when it occurs in Persian languages - from
evangelism to Bible training to publishing Scripture and Christian books. Yet
the regime's harsh treatment of Christians only further fuels the flames of
church growth.
Islam is the official religion in Iran, and all laws and regulations must be
consistent with the official interpretation of sharia law. Although ethnic
(Armenian and Assyrian) Christians are a recognized religious minority who
officially are guaranteed religious freedom, they have reported imprisonment,
physical abuse, harassment and discrimination because of their faith.
Armenian and Assyrian churches are allowed to teach fellow countrymen in
their own language, but it is forbidden to minister to people with a Muslim
background (speaking Farsi). Under the judicial interpretations of sharia law,
any Muslim who leaves Islam to embrace another religion faces the death
penalty. Many church services are being monitored by the secret police.
Believers, especially converts from Islam, who are active in churches or the
cell group movement are being pressured: they are questioned, arrested and
put in jail and beaten. Individual believers are being oppressed by society,
under pressure of the authorities, and family.
During the last few months of 2010 and the beginning of 2011, mass arrests
of Christians took place; more than 200 Christians were arrested during the
reporting period. This number is comparable to the number of Christians
arrested during the previous World Watch List reporting period. The
remarkable difference this time is the statements against Christianity in Iran
which religious and political leaders made in the media preceding the arrests.
For the first time ever, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has warned of the ever
expanding influence and numbers of home-based churches during a speech
on October 19th. Iran's supreme religious leader blamed “the enemies of
Islam for establishing and encouraging the expansion of Christianity in Iran.’’
Also in October, Iran’s intelligence minister said that his agents had
discovered hundreds of underground church groups, including 200 in the
Muslim holy city of Mashhad. In January the provincial governor of Tehran,
Moreza Tamadon, said in a reaction to the arrests of Christians that more will
follow in the near future. He especially criticized Christian evangelicalism,
calling it a “corrupt and deviant movement’’, “a cultural invasion of the
enemy” and likened the Protestant movement to the Taliban and the Wahabis
in Islam. More recently, the Minister of Intelligence, Heydar Moslehi, has
reportedly warned of the threat of house churches and other Christian
interests during October and November 2011. He also indicated that new
efforts are being made to battle against the growth of the house church
movement in Iran. Since the start of the anti-Christian rhetoric, the number
arrests of Christians have increased. Although most Christians were later
released, pressure on the church remains high.
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The regime lost credibility following the turmoil after the 2009 elections, and in
an effort to distract attention from internal problems, it is increasingly lashing
out against Christians. Several Christians were sentenced to jail or death for
Christian activities. However there were no reports of the implementation of
death penalties. Also, Open Doors did not receive any reports of Christians
being killed for their faith whereas this was the case during the last reporting
period. Therefore there is a slight decrease in total of points for Iran (from 67.5
last year to 66 points this year). At the same time the points for other countries
in the top ten increased and as a result Iran went down a few positions from
number two to five. Nevertheless, the situation of religious freedom for
Christians has not improved; it is as serious as last year and no improvement is
expected on the short run.
The Iranian authorities’ fear of the increase of Christianity in the country is
based on facts and not just paranoia. Curiosity and interest in Christianity (and
in other non-Islamic religions) is growing strongly among Iranian Muslims who
are disillusioned with Iran’s state-sponsored Shi’ism, as a result of what the
Iranian government has done in the name of Islam. In total, there are now
460,000 Christians (from an Islamic and Assyrian/Armenian background) in
Iran.
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6. Maldives
The Maldives are well-known as a dream destination for holidays. The islands
are located in the midst of the Indian Ocean, surrounded by blue water and
white beaches stretched out under the blazing sun. This is the picture
authorities want to give to the outside world. The harsh attitude the
government takes towards all Christian believers is less known, darkening the
lovely picture of the country considerably. Nothing substantial has changed
during the last reporting period, resulting in no changes in ranking or points
for the Maldives on the 2012 World Watch List.
As every Maldivian citizen has to be Muslim, all deviant religious convictions
are strictly forbidden. The government does not distinguish between national
and expat believers. The tiny number of indigenous believers is not able to
meet publicly, let alone worship together. On the contrary, they have to
practice their faith in utmost secrecy, always in fear of being discovered.
While the authorities closely monitor all religious activities that they perceive
to be suspicious, social control also remains extremely high. Maldivian
citizens agree with the heavy handed authorities because they see freedom of
religion as freedom to discuss religious issues related to Islam. This freedom
was non-existent under the former regime governing the country. Maldivian
society demonstrates this attitude towards all kinds of beliefs or convictions,
be it Christianity or Atheism. Additionally, the government has increased
control of all media.
According to an amendment made to the “Protection of Religious Unity Act”
in September 2011, every person must avoid creating hatred towards people
of other religions. While this may initially sound good, it effectively reinforces
the existing government policy that Islam is an inseparable part of a
Maldivian’s cultural identity. The legislation, forbidding the practice of any
religion except Islam, is thus confirmed once again. Commentators therefore
stated that the official direction religion is taking in the country will be
toward Deoband Islam, the same ideology which informs the Taliban’s
convictions.
The Maldivian government views itself as the protector and defender of
Islam. This was recently demonstrated by the imprisonment of a foreign
Christian teacher, who was detained and deported from the country after
allegations that he had stored Christian material on a school computer.
Although no converts were killed for their faith in the past year, pressure on
them remains very high.
Given the sternness of the government and the support it enjoys by Maldivian
citizens, it cannot be expected that there will be substantial changes in the
years to come. Maldivian authorities capitalize on the remoteness of the
Islands to keep a powerful grip on all perceived religious deviations.
--------------------------------
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7. Uzbekistan
For the seventh consecutive year Uzbekistan remains the highest ranked country on
the WWL of all Central Asian states. The total number of points has risen considerably
compared to last year. The regime is fighting several Islamic movements, but seems
foremost to be pre-occupied by the thought of staying in power.
For Christians in the region’s most populous country, practicing their faith has become
difficult, though the Russian Orthodox Church seem to be less affected. All activities of
unregistered churches are strictly forbidden both inside and outside the churches.
Youth activities are forbidden, outreaches are forbidden, seminars and training are
forbidden. Private Bible studies are being tolerated, but those meetings are always in
danger of being closed down. The strict monitoring of all Christian activities continues
and has even been intensified. Though it is fair to say that registered churches have a
somewhat better standing, they nonetheless also have suffered an increasing number
of raids, church members were fined and underwent harassment by the authorities.
Youth activities are especially targeted with officials intimidating young believers,
often instilling in them a fear of taking part in church meetings. Additionally, when
brought to court, a fair treatment is no more than a far dream for anyone, including
Christians.
One of the main reasons for raiding churches is the confiscation of literature. The
authorities will take any kind of Christian literature such as Bibles, hymn books or
commentaries along with DVDs and computers with them. Because of this,
entire libraries of churches, collected under extremely difficult circumstances,
are taken away, leaving the churches and their leaders with almost nothing.
Neither importing Christian books and literature nor printing them within the
country is legally possible. As the state also controls the media and blocks
websites with religious content, it is difficult for believers to obtain Bibles and
other materials in any form. During the last ten years, only a single church
was granted registration.
The government policy of not just fining Christians, but also giving them
short term prison sentences of 3 to 15 days, continues. The number of
Christians undergoing such treatment has increased considerably. The raids
and threats are not limited to a certain area of the country, but are reported
from the capital Tashkent as well as rural areas, from Western Karakalpakstan
to the Eastern Ferghana Valley. And it is not only the government which is hostile
towards the Christian minority.
Societal pressure on believers (especially MBBs) is extreme. Other religious groups and
so-called Mahalla committees are constantly observing the believers and reporting on
them. Neighborhood, family and Islamic clergy are the main sources of harassment. In
several cases, MBBs have lost their jobs, once their faith became known to the public.
In TV programs and talk shows, but also in newspapers and radio programs, believers
are frequently portrayed in a very negative way. In some cases, as Christians were
exposed on TV, the audience was warned of them, thus causing employers to fire their
Christian employees. This way several families have lost their source of income.
The outlook for the Uzbek Christians is not bright. Authorities have started to tighten
their grip on all churches. Societal hostility against them is growing, fanned by
negative TV reports. At the same time, teaching their believers is an increased
challenge for local pastors.
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8. Yemen
In Yemen, Islam is the state religion and sharia is the source of all legislation.
There is some religious freedom for foreigners, but evangelism is prohibited;
several expatriate workers were deported in the past for Christian activities.
Yemenis who leave Islam may face the death penalty as a result. Christians from
a Muslim background do not only face persecution from the authorities but
also from family and extremist Islamic groups who threaten “apostates” with
death if they do not revert to Islam. Insecurity caused by terrorist movements
makes Yemen very unstable; a situation which has even further deteriorated
during the “Arab Spring” riots of 2011. Kidnappings of foreigners in Yemen
have occurred regularly, usually ending by meeting kidnapper’s demands for
some community assistance, funds, or release of clan members from custody.
Four of the nine foreign Christians kidnapped in June 2009 remain missing.
In Aden there are four official churches (three Catholic and one Anglican) for
the several thousands of expat Christians (most are Westerners, South and East
Asians and Arabs) or refugees (mainly Ethiopian) living in the country. However,
in the north, no church buildings are allowed. Large numbers of expats have
left as a result of the “Arab Spring” riots. The number of Muslim background
believers is estimated at just a few hundred. When a Muslim becomes a
Christian, he or she faces persecution from family and government. They are
not allowed to have their own gatherings, so they meet in secret locations. Due
to the chaotic and violent situation in the country, there was limited access to
the country and less information was available (also expressed in the Variation
Degree which increased from 3 last year to 5 this year. The number of points for
Yemen decreased slightly, from 60 to 58.5 points.) Because of this, the country
is ranked in 8th place this year (instead of 7 last year).
The government has used excessive force to crack down on the protestors after
10 months of mass protest, caused by high levels of unemployment in the
country and government corruption. President Saleh finally signed a political
transition agreement on November 23, transferring power to his deputy Abd-
Rabbu Mansour Hadi. In February 2012, presidential elections will be organized.
However, as the International Crisis Group notes, “Ten months of popular
protest spiked by periodic outbursts of violence have done little to clarify
Yemen’s political future.” Yemeni politics are indeed extremely complex. The
country is deeply divided between pro- and anti-Saleh forces and the south of
the country is claiming its independence. In spite of President Saleh’s
resignation, the conflict risks getting bloodier, opposing Shiite Huthi rebels and
Sunni Islamists. To make it even more complex, the country has a strong tribal
system which is difficult to understand for outsiders. Besides that, small groups
of al-Qaeda-linked groups struggle for more power in the country. Christians
who are on either side of the political spectrum, in spite of their differences, are
reported to have maintained unity in Christ.
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9. Iraq
A true exodus of Christians is going on in Iraq. Christians are fleeing the
country massively and it can only be guessed how many are still present.
Since the United States army has started to withdraw from the country,
Iraq has suffered from structural uncertainty, conflict and instability, under
a government incapable of enforcing the rule of law and providing a
minimum of security. Corruption levels are soaring and sectarian violence
does not seem to stop.
Iraq’s Federal Constitution says each individual has freedom of thought,
conscience and belief, but there is no article on changing one’s religion.
However sharia is the primary source of law, which forbids conversion of
Muslims to other religions. This makes it legally impossible to apply
freedom of belief in the cases of converts. There is no safe haven for Arab
families who convert from Islam.
Iraqi Christians feel that the current government fails to give them
security. There was a marked increase of killings of Christians and attacks
on churches during the previous reporting period. Violence still is part of
the Iraqi society in 2011, although there were fewer reports of casualties
than last year. During the current reporting period, we reported 38
Christians killed and between 48-99 injured, numbers which are likely to
be higher in reality. Although these figures are dramatic, those of the
previous reporting period were even higher: at least 90 murdered and
230 injured (which is mostly explained by the deadly bomb attack on the
church in Baghdad in October 2010 and the attack on the busses full of
Christian students in May 2010). Also the number of reported abductions
decreased whereas they still take place regularly. (These decreased
numbers resulted in just 1.5 points less for Iraq: from 58.5 last year to 57
this year, leading to position 9 on this year’s WWL versus 8 last year). It
goes without saying that the situation of Christians in Iraq is still
deplorable and is by no means improving.
A new development is the deterioration of the situation of Christians in
the northern part of the country, Kurdistan. Whereas Kurdistan has long
been considered a safe haven for Christians, violence against Christians is
on the increase there as well. The main cause of persecution there is
Islamic extremism. Analysts think that one of the reasons for the growing
Islamic extremism is Iraq’s drift into Iran’s orbit while the United State’s
influence is diminishing in the country.
Christian individuals are still being threatened, robbed, raped, or
kidnapped and churches attacked. In April, a roadside bomb exploded
near the rear entrance of a Catholic church in Baghdad after Sunday Easter
Mass, injuring at least seven people (not necessarily all Christians) and
shattering its windows. Two churches in Kirkuk were bombed in August
2011 and damaged badly. Several people were injured. Bombs were found
in two other churches in this city. One month before, a new church was
opened in Kirkuk. The attacks could have been a reaction to that, which
may have been incited by the fact that it was Ramadan.
The sectarian violence is causing Christians to flee the country in large
numbers; tens of thousands of Christians have left the country since the
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attack on the Sacred Heart church in Baghdad at the end of October 2010.
Many sources reported that in 1991 Christians in Iraq numbered around
850,000 – 1,000,000, including those living in the Kurdish region. In 2003 the
number dropped to 550,000 and in early 2010 there were 345,000. The
estimated number of Christians continues to decrease, leaving an estimated
300,000 Christians in Iraq at present. The figures show a dramatic decrease of
Christians in 10 years. As a result of the rise of Al Qaeda and the advance of
Islamist movements, the largest non-Muslim religious group in the country is
at risk of disappearing after a presence of two millennia. Also, the exodus of
Christians in Iraq may well have important political and social consequences
for the region.
The Economist Intelligence Unit expects that “the government of national
unity, which brings together the four largest political groups, will continue to
be weak and divided, and some blocs are likely to pull out to join the
parliamentary opposition.” The weakness of the state is expected to benefit
insurgent groups who are expanding their power base, which will make the
situation of Christians even more difficult. This also affects the Kurdish region
which was once safe for Christians. The attacks on Christian-owned
businesses and some mainly Christian villages in Northern Iraq from
December 2 to 5, 2011 by Islamic rioters show the future is bleak for
Christians in the entire country of Iraq.
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10. Pakistan
Pakistan provided one of persecution’s worst headlines in 2011 with the
assassination of Cabinet Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, the highest ranking Christian ever
to be killed in this lawless country. A Roman Catholic, the forty-two-year old was
the Minister for Minority Affairs in the federal government and one of the highest
profile advocates for the removal of the notorious blasphemy law. As the only
Christian minister in the cabinet, he was unusually influential. Four gunmen
approached him in broad daylight in Islamabad when he was returning in his car
from a visit to his mother on March 2. They sprayed his car with bullets and fled
the scene, and have not been heard of since. The investigation – like so many in
Pakistan – has been described as “tepid” by human rights activists. A letter found
at the scene from the Pakistani Taliban said that he had been executed for his
attempts to amend the blasphemy law: “We will not spare anybody involved in acts
of blasphemy,” it read.
Pakistan’s Christians are a beleaguered minority of about 2.5% in a country of
176.7 million, which is 96% Muslim, and the killing of Bhatti was “one of the most
demoralizing acts for us of recent years,” according to a church leader in Karachi.
Bhatti’s death came after the slaying of the Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, a
Muslim sympathetic to the Christian plight. He set out to change the blasphemy
law by supporting Asia Noreen (also known as Asia Bibi), the first woman
sentenced to death on blasphemy charges. One of his bodyguards turned his gun
on the Governor, while five others of the security detail merely watched. Thousands
of militants turned out in the streets to support the assassin and protest that he
even be charged with murder. The central government, with characteristic
weakness, quickly stalled any move to deal with the offending laws. Indeed,
Bhatti’s cabinet post was abolished, and the position downgraded to the state
governmental level.
Four other Christians were also killed in the reporting period, two of them gunned
down outside their church in Hyderabad, Sindh Province on March 22. Death
threats are routine for church leaders; beatings are common and damage to church
property occurs on a monthly basis.
Pakistan’s Christians are caught between Islamic militant organizations that
routinely target Christians for violence, and an Islamizing culture that makes
Christians feel less and less a part of Pakistan. Add into the mix a weak and corrupt
central government unwilling to confront injustice, and a military that has been
found complicit in fueling Islamic militants to gain leverage in Afghanistan and
Indian- held Kashmir, and it is clear that Christians have few allies in their fight to
flourish in the land of their birth. These persecution dynamics have been in place
for many years however, and the country is set to surpass Indonesia as containing
the world’s largest Muslim population by 2030 (256 million), according to a Pew
Research Report released in January 2011.
The news is not all bad however. The laws of Pakistan give Christians considerable
freedom to run their churches; the Christian population is growing, and a steady
but significant trickle of Muslims join churches. In the future, the rising
superpower of China may force the military to stamp out internal Muslim militants
as it intends to build a trade superhighway through the country down to Sindh
province where they are building a warm water port. The USA also retains leverage
over the state due to its US$2billion annual grant to the military. But in the shorter
term it is becoming harder to be a Christian in Pakistan.
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11. Eritrea
Eritrea climbed from position 12 to position 11 in the WWL 2012. The slight increase of the
persecution situation in the country is mainly due to a higher number of incidents involving the small
group of independent Protestant evangelical Christians, declared enemies of the State by the
government of President Isaias Afewerki. In Eritrea the non-compliant churches are understood to be
evangelical, Pentecostal or charismatic. Jehovah Witnesses, however, also bear the yoke of aggressive
persecution. Main characteristic of the persecution situation: very serious persecution of a small part
of the Christian body in the country, with the potential to see the broader body affected in the near
future.
The government is the main persecutor. The government of Eritrea adheres somehow to Marxist
ideology but its real quest seems to be plain power. The general population has become tired of the
government and does not expose evangelical Christians to the government like it did before.
The persecution pattern in Eritrea is therefore mostly related to the specific dynamics of government
driven persecution. No spontaneous killings-on-the-spot by individuals or mobs, inspired by their
overzealous religious leaders, but more systematic government action. Christians from the evangelical
minority are pressurized to change or renounce their religion. They are tortured and forced to revert
to the registered denominations. While no Christian has been killed in the last year, five Christians died
in prison due to illness. Many more believers were released so that they wouldn’t die while in
government’s custody. Some were denied medical attention, others received inadequate medical care.
Anyone who is caught or discovered to be an evangelical Christian was sent to jail without trial, the
crime committed being an evangelical Christian in Eritrea. It is hard to establish exactly how many
Christians are in jail because of the nature of crackdown that the government undertakes all over the
country. Actual estimations are around 1,500 Christians in detention. The government holds Christians
in military camps, some in hidden places not accessible to ordinary people other than government
officers. The persecuted only emerge to narrate their story after they have been released.
Churches that existed in 1952 are favored, including the Eritrean Orthodox church, Roman Catholic
Church and Lutheran church. Islam is among the recognized religious groups since 1952. The Eritrean
Orthodox Church is the largest church in the country, most aligned to the government and
government policies. Its members are said to spy on the activities of evangelical Christians and report
them to the government. But if they start to annoy government, they get in trouble, too. So, they are
closer to the government, but not free.
In the past, when the churches were closed on May 12, 2002, most believers had fled the country. The
majority of the believers now are those who have come to Christ during this latest period of
crackdown. The Church is growing in size and strength. Meanwhile persecution is increasing. Since
June 20, 2011 the believers in prison have been denied visits and supplies by relatives. The past year
saw a renewed crackdown on house churches resulting in imprisonment of at least 23 youths. A new
persecution dimension opened occurred when the government required the Orthodox and Catholic
priests in training, normally exempt from military service, to be enrolled for military service. The
churches refused but the youths were forcefully drafted into the army.
Despite the heavy crackdown and persecution of evangelical Christians, the government is
disappointed that it hasn’t been able to wipe out the evangelical churches completely. There are
recent revelations by Wikileaks, that the government has plans to exterminate the leadership of the
evangelical churches.
Open Doors expects that the overall persecution situation in the coming years will remain the same. If
the government also starts to seriously persecute the broader Christian community, or the actions of
the government against the evangelical churches will be too severe, social groups may in the medium
term start to resist government actions and contribute to softening of the persecution situation.
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12. Laos
The fact that Laos has dropped out of the top 10 on World Watch List 2012
should not be seen as a sign of improvement in this country. In fact, nothing has
changed substantially over the past year. The state is Communist-atheist and
authorities exercise tight control on all parts of society. This is also true for all
religious activities. Only three Christian denominations are registered (Catholic
Church, Laos Evangelical Church and Seventh-day Adventist). Other small
independent Protestant congregations are under pressure and have been refused
recognition. The activities of unrecognized churches are considered illegal by
authorities, who detain and arrest their members and leaders under various
pretexts.
The preferred religion of the Lao government is Theravada Buddhism. The
Christian minority is therefore perceived antagonistically as being “foreign
agents.” But the real problem seems to lie within the conduct of the local
authorities, who regard Christians as enemies. Believers must take extreme
caution when talking about their faith. Christians always have to stay within
tacitly understood guidelines. Local authorities often make use of the
prevalent hostile attitude of society towards Christians as a means and
justification to monitor them. Frequently, Buddhist leaders and village
shamans closely watch Christians. Despite such pressure from all sides, the
Church is growing, especially among tribal groups.
Hence, believers with a tribal background—which includes the vast majority
of all Christian believers—are suffering the most. Occasionally some
Christians are arrested, detained and pressured to renounce their faith. This is
especially true among Christians from the Katin or Hmong tribes who are
sometimes even killed, often in Army clashes. In April during this reporting
period, the lives of at least four Hmong Christians were taken and several others
were arrested. Churches were deprived of their buildings and possessions, which
were often destroyed and sometimes confiscated. On the other hand, an
encouraging sign was that the government afforded some expulsed families with
their own piece of land on which they can farm, allowed the children to attend
regular school and welcomed believers in public hospitals.
But in general, for several years, nothing substantial in Laos has changed for the
Christian minority. And at the moment, it looks like this will also be true for the
coming year.
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13. Northern Nigeria
The main persecution engine in Northern Nigeria is Islamic extremism. Northern
Nigeria went up in the World Watch List from position 23 to 13 with an estimated
total of 1,000 deaths, mostly in the North. More than reflecting an increase in the
number of incidental attacks against Christians and churches, this change
highlights the structural process in which social groups firmly linked to a
dominating religion (Islam) and government drive each other into a “vicious circle”
of suffocating religious minorities (Christians) in the sharia dominated areas of
Northern Nigeria.
Persecution of Christians in Northern Nigeria is driven by extremist Islam. Boko
Haram is the most well-known face of the persecution. The Boko Haram sect—
“Western education is forbidden”—was founded in 2001 and flourished until 2009
when it was forbidden by the authorities and suffered a serious blast from security
forces. However, between then and now the sect has been able to reorganize and
be a serious threat, attacking not only Christians and their churches, but also
government buildings, police stations and even mosques that do not follow their
agenda. For instance, on June 12, 2011, the sect members detonated bombs in
Maiduguri killing about 14 people including a pastor and his secretary who were
shot dead at the church premises. Church leaders in Maiduguri are disturbed over
the negligence of the government to bring an end to the activities of the sect; from
2009 to date over 50 churches have been destroyed by the sect members and
around 10 pastors have been killed. Also, many believers have been murdered.
Boko Haram, a homegrown fundamentalist group devoted to violence which allied
itself with al-Qaida in the Magreb (AQIM), also claimed responsibility for the
August 26 bombing in Nigeria's capital of Abuja. The car-bomb blast killed at least
19 people and wounded many more, but more important than the numbers was
the target—the United Nations headquarters—this way internationalizing the
conflict in Northern Nigeria.
Another face of extremist Islam in Northern Nigeria is broad popular support
for radical Muslim expression, as shown by the many dramatic events in which
churches were attacked and families killed or wounded.
The close interconnectedness of radical Muslim activists poses specific
difficulties to Christians in Northern Nigeria. On August 29, Christian youth
heavily provoked by Muslim youth—and weary of having seen their family
members killed for such a long time without anyone intervening—forcefully
retaliated causing the loss of three lives. The Nigerian dailies reported that
more than 12 Muslims were killed, and a bigger group of Christians injured—
the Christian youths had been shot by either the Muslims or security agents.
After this event, threatening statements against Christians in Jos were flowing
in from neighboring Muslim states, targeting minority Christians in all 12 sharia
states in Northern Nigeria. Sometimes it seems extremist Muslims everywhere in the
region are eagerly waiting for an incident to “blow the trumpet of an attack” that
outweighs by far the initial event.
In April 2011, incumbent Goodluck E. Jonathan of the ruling People’s Democratic
Party, a Christian, won the presidential elections in Nigeria. There was a big debate
about the candidacy of Jonathan, because he was a Christian. Muslims felt the
presidential candidates should have been Muslims, based on an agreement in
Nigerian politics between Muslims and Christians. The victory of Jonathan caused
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serious unrest, leaving hundreds killed and a massive destruction of churches
from Yobe state in the North East to Sokoto in the Northwest.
The combination of terrorist group activities and broad popular support at
the local level for further Islamization of Northern Nigeria, including the
possible quest to eliminate Christian presence in the (intended) “House of
Islam,” makes the future for the church in this part of the country very
difficult. In the “middle belt” between the mainly Muslim north and Christian
south, the risk of civil war is very real. A complicating factor is that in this
region dozens of ethnic groups vie for control of fertile lands and political
and economic power. While much of the conflict over the past decade cuts
across religious and ethnic lines, it finds its roots in simmering economic and
political issues, and rapid population growth. The effect of the developments
in Northern Nigeria and the “middle belt” in Southern Nigeria, remains to be
seen.
Northern Nigeria has an estimated 27,000,000 Christians with a total
population of about 70,000,000. According to one of Open Doors’ sources,
“about 5 million believers are under intense pressure in sharia states of the
North as a result of their faith. Because of the intense solidarity sentiments
and structures among Muslims and sharia states—in a tense socio-economic
situation—Open Doors expects the persecution situation in Northern Nigeria
will deteriorate, also drawing Christians living in quieter areas in the North
who are not yet exposed to severe persecution, into the vicious circle of
religious violence that took more than a thousand lives during the reporting
period.
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14. Mauritania
Mauritania is not often in the news and seems to have been forgotten by the international
community. Very little attention has been given to the suffering of its small, local Church. Because
of harsh government restrictions, it is very difficult, if not impossible, for Christian missions and
Christians in general to operate in the country. After Somalia and Eritrea, Mauritania is the
African country that ranks highest on Open Doors’ World Watch List. Mauritania also ranks as
“high” on the PEW Forum’s Government Restrictions Index, meaning that religious beliefs and
practices are strongly restricted by government laws, policies and actions.
Mauritania, very proud to be officially a pure Muslim country, does not include any provisions for
religious freedom in its constitution, and its laws prohibit conversion to Christian faith. The
sentence for apostasy is death.
Recent incidents of persecution include several deaths. In 2009, a U.S. schoolteacher in
Mauritania, Chris Leggett, was murdered by Islamic extremists for spreading Christianity. A young
woman, a Christian convert from Islam, died in May 2010 after she was beaten by her father and
brothers because she refused to come back to the Muslim faith. In 2011 the overall situation of
the country has not noticeably improved. According to our reports this year, some of the local
Christians were beaten, but nobody was killed for their faith. However, pressures
upon Christians did get stronger compared to last year.
In Mauritania, it is extremely difficult to be a Christian. Pressure on Muslim
Background Believers from family and tribe members and leaders of local
mosques, is very high. There is some freedom for expat churches, but even for
expats residing in the country it is complicated. It remains completely impossible
for Mauritanian Christians to register their churches, so they must meet in secret.
There is no question that extremist Islam is the main factor of increasing
persecution in the country. Extremist Islamic ideology has become more visible in
Mauritania during this last year, showing that the Salafists are having a growing
influence in their attempts to adhere to the rules of Islamic morality, notes
Magharebia, a U.S.-sponsored online news website, in a recent country brief.
The Islamists create tension and opposition against Christians. In December 2010, at the National
Assembly, Islamist Members of Parliament questioned the government about their attitude
toward Christian organizations, which led to increased monitoring of Christian activities. In July
2011, the council of the Mauritanian Imams asked the government to criminalize obvious
apostasy and proselytizing.
Moreover, the influence of al-Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM) in Mauritania is growing. The group
is gaining support among local Mauritanians and is also monitoring Christians in the country.
Northern areas of the country are increasingly under the control of extremist Muslim groups who
are mostly linked to the al-Qaeda network.
Compared to last year, the situation in the country is getting worse, but not dramatically worse.
On the WWL, the country dropped one place because other countries climbed, yet it increased in
points to indicate a slight increase in persecution.
The country, isolated from the rest of the world because of its mainly desert landscape and rule
by a very oppressive regime, has not yet experienced anything related to the Arab Spring that has
brought about the big social and political shifts in neighboring countries. However, extremist
Islam is becoming more influential and this will likely lead to the increased oppression of
Christians.
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15. Egypt
Egypt is home to nearly 10 million Christians, about three quarters of all Christians in the
Middle-East. Tensions between this large Christian minority and the Muslim majority have
always existed, but seem to have increased over recent months. The revolution that ousted
President Hosni Mubarak, who stepped down February 11, 2011, brought Muslims and
Christians together against a hated dictator as they demanded an end to corruption and a
solution to structural poverty and rising unemployment. However, Muslim-Christian
relations deteriorated afterwards.
Egyptian Christians, initially enjoying their new-found freedom, were hopeful that their
situation might improve. However, as the Islamists succeeded in the events following the
constitutional referendum, the government was unable to restore necessary law and order.
Increasing levels of violence against Christians seem to indicate that the situation for
Christians has actually worsened. This explains why Egypt jumps from position 19 on the
WWL in 2011 to position 15.
Radical Islamic fundamentalists are becoming highly visible. The Muslim Brotherhood, the
jihadist Gamaa Islamiyya and the Salafist Ansar al-Sunna Society are manifesting themselves
in the public domain. After decades of suppression, these groups are ready to form political
parties, compete in coming elections and determine future developments in the country.
Egypt made headlines with the October Maspero massacre that killed 26 Coptic Christians
who were peaceful protesters; hundreds were injured. In this bloody incident, the military
did not do anything to protect Christians who were being attacked and even participated in
the killings. This massacre can hardly be seen as an isolated incident, but is part of an
overall negative trend that started with the 2011 New Years Eve bomb attack in front of the
Alexandria Church of the Two Saints that killed and injured many Christians.
Persecution of Christians in Egypt is on the rise, with a substantial increase in numbers
killed, physically harmed and churches/houses attacked. Salafi Muslims continue to
intimidate local Christians by blocking entrances to churches, demanding that church
buildings be moved outside communities, or that church repairs be forbidden. There are
accounts of an increasing number of Coptic girls abducted and forced into Islamic
marriages since the January 25 revolution. In rural areas, Copts are constantly terrorized,
with security forces turning a blind eye to the events.
During Mubarak’s government, oppression of churches was always present. The country is
now led by a civilian transition government supervised by the Supreme Military Council,
which is showing an increasingly anti-Christian attitude and is sympathetic towards the
Muslim Brotherhood. This military council will seek to retain control of the government,
even after the parliamentary elections, as it has done for the last 50 years.
In the context of Salafi manifestations in public, the future looks bleak for Christians and for
moderate Muslims. If civil and political rights are obtained, Christians could substantially
improve their position, but this scenario does not seem very likely in Egypt where the poorly
educated population is rapidly turning to Islam. Support for both the Muslim Brotherhood
and Salafi Islam is growing. After radical Muslims won the parliamentary elections on
November 25, the situation for Christians will almost certainly get worse.
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16. Sudan
The main persecution engine in Sudan is Islamic extremism. Sudan (North
Sudan before the independence of South Sudan on July 9, 2011) jumped from
position 35 to 16 in the World Watch List. Although there are some structural
developments that push for further persecution, this jump mainly reflects a
higher number of incidents involving Christians and churches. The number of
formally reported killings is limited, but the whole Abyei, South Kordofan and
Blue Nile area has seen thousands killed, religion being one factor but
hopelessly confused with perceived political loyalties and control of resources.
Still we count those victims as killings related to persecution of Christians
because their faith highlighted them as potential targets, while their
vulnerability is high in a context in which government and society severely
restricts religious freedom.
Do the constitution and/or other national laws of this country provide for
freedom of religion? President Omar al-Bashir asserted last year that after the
July 9 separation from South Sudan, (North) Sudan would be based on sharia
(Islamic law) and Islamic culture, with Arabic as the official language. That is
not official yet although it is unofficially implemented. An expert calls
“Islamization and Arabization rampant in parts of the country.” At the same
time, mainstream Muslim society supports the President’s assertion by claiming
amendments to the Constitution to make it overtly more Islamic. One would
think this to be superfluous, the more so because practice already shifted
towards Islamic law. Anyhow, it seems Islamic social groups and government
pair spontaneously in pushing for a stern Islamic society.
Persecution comes from different sources: (a) Islamic groups, and the broader
public, wanting to form an Islamic state; (b) the family against Muslim
Background Believers (MBBs); (c) the State against recognized Christians.
Actually conversion is just not recognized, i.e. MBBs are treated as if they are
Muslims.
Is Christianity growing or decreasing? Many Christian Background Believers left
(North) Sudan for South Sudan. The number of MBBs in Sudan is probably
rising.
In Sudan, persecution of Christians has increased rapidly over the past 12
months. An expert states “it should have increased more rapidly, but because
of war in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, it slowed down in the capital in order
to gain public opinion.” In the near future, persecution of Christians in Sudan
will likely increase seriously, with Christians in the country being squeezed
between Islamization and Arabization. The effects of a possible war between
Sudan and the newly formed South Sudan will even be more disastrous for
Christians – warfare dynamics can easily cover-up severe acts of religious
persecution.
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17. Bhutan
Bhutan made it into international headlines recently, when the country’s king
married a young commoner this October, another indication for change. The
country became a constitutional monarchy in 2008, and is still going through
several major changes in politics and in society. As the country transitions
from an absolute to constitutional monarchy, signs indicate these changes
will affect Christians in a positive way, resulting in Bhutan decreasing in
points and ranking on the 2012 World Watch List. Whereas Prime Minister
Jigme Thinley states that “democratic culture is gradually taking firm roots”
in the country, he absolutely denies the right of the small Christian minority
to testify about their faith. Expressing a commonly held belief in Bhutan, he
said that there is no reason why Christians should seek to induce others to
join their faith. Hence, the parliament, which is largely dominated by one
party seen as royalist, is still considering an amendment to the penal code
aimed at prohibiting “conversion by coercion or inducement.” Christians in
the country deny that they would seek to convert people by giving them
money or by forcing them to convert.
Though Christian churches are not officially recognized yet, the government
is exploring possibilities for registration. The key issue in negotiations will
likely be the question of evangelism. At the moment, believers are in a
transitional period. The church in Bhutan is no longer an underground
church, since Christians are allowed to meet in private homes regularly on
Sundays without any interference by authorities; Christians in remote villages
encounter more difficulties, though. In that respect, the reporting period saw
a considerable improvement of the situation of the Christian minority.
However, the situation for Christians will stay ambiguous as long as their
status is not officially clear. Another positive development this year is that
there are no reports of Christians being arrested, physically harmed, or
otherwise badly treated. Discrimination occurs occasionally.
Whether the Christian minority will experience increased religious freedom
will depend largely on how the planned anti-conversion-law is drafted.
Additionally, the process of recognizing and registering churches along with
the establishment of rights and duties needs to be defined. The Christian
minority can be seen as a test case regarding the optimistic announcement
made by Prime Minister cited above.
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18. Turkmenistan
In Turkmenistan, the tight grip of the authorities on Christians continues. The
slight decrease of points does not imply that the situation for the Christian
minority has improved in any way, neither does the loss in rank. But as no
kidnappings of Christians or attacks on Christian homes were reported this
year, the country moved a bit down the list. As in all other Central Asian
countries, there is a considerable difference between registered and
unregistered churches. Big churches, like the Russian Orthodox Church, seem
to be less affected. All unregistered religious activity is strictly illegal.
Obtaining a registration is a highly bureaucratic process. For native Turkmen
communities, being registered is simply impossible, for the others it is
difficult. But even registered communities face difficulties in finding a
meeting place, let alone having a worship gathering outside. Police and
secret service keep any Christian activity under surveillance. The lower ranks
and local authorities are very biased against the Christians; dozens of
believers were detained for short periods.
This strict surveillance makes it difficult for churches to teach their
constituency. The printing and importing of all religious literature is
effectively banned. Registered communities may ask for an import approval,
but normally their application will be rejected. In the reporting period,
Turkmen churches were not able to import any Bibles, commentaries, hymn
books etc. Indigenous believers face special problems as they have to cope
with the open hostility of family, friends and neighborhood. MBBs are under
constant pressure to recant their new faith.
One Turkmen pastor (Ilmurad Nurliev) remains in prison after being sentenced
to four years due to false allegations against him. He was convicted in
October 2010, and despite several amnesties since then, he has not yet been
released. Like all other Central Asian states, the outlook for Turkmenistan is
not very positive. As long as the authorities consider Christians a disruptive
element in society, changes cannot be expected.
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19. Vietnam
Vietnam is one of the countries on this years’ World Watch List which climbs
in points, but falls slightly in ranking. This is mainly due to the rapidly
deteriorating situation for Christians in Egypt, which has “overtaken” the
country, at least in terms of ranking. For this reason, the descent of Vietnam
on the list should not be equated with an improvement of the situation for
Christians. In fact, the opposite is true for Vietnam.
Vietnamese authorities keep a close eye on all Christian activities in the
country. Believers face more problems by officials, often being accused of
causing “social disturbances,” “fighting the local government” or simply
“subversion.” Church leaders are closely monitored and have to be careful
regarding what they say and how they act. Christians are routinely
questioned by security police, especially when they witness to others.
Several reports demonstrate that the Vietnamese army attacked two
Christian Hmong villages in May and July of this year. The result of these
attacks was that at least 16 people were injured. The basis for these
attacks is a mixture of the government’s adherence to a Marxist-Leninist
ideology found in the constitution, and continued neglect of the needs of
ethnic minorities in the Central Highland bordering Cambodia and Laos.
Christians belonging to the ethnic minorities and tribes are the citizens who
face the most challenges for their faith. In tribal areas, village and religious
leaders like shamans take offense when Christians come to their villages to
preach the Gospel. Because of this, they monitor everyone who is helping
new converts and report their activities to local authorities. Using their strong
position in society, those local religious leaders often influence local
government to take action against the increasing growth of the church. In
rural areas, believers have to live in very difficult circumstances. Evangelism
and Christian teaching are done secretively, keeping a low profile.
As long as Christians are accused of causing social disturbances due to their
faith—be it in court or by rural society—true improvement is unlikely.
Ongoing disputes in the tribal areas result in entrenched discrimination of
Vietnamese Christians. They will not be viewed as citizens who can make a
valuable contribution to their country and society in current conditions.
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20. Chechnya
Chechnya is formally still a part of the Russian Federation, but the
independence wars that opposed Islamic rebels and the Russian army during
the ‘90s are still fresh memories for the general population. Tensions continue
to exist and occasional terrorist attacks still occur—including in neighboring
Dagestan and other northern Caucasus regions—although Russia has killed
many separatist leaders and succeeded in installing a pro-Moscow Chechen
regime in 1999.
Chechnya is one of the areas in Russia where Islam plays an important role.
Russian legislation is formally applicable in Chechnya, but there are also a
couple of local rulings which limit religious liberty. The regime of Chechen
President Ramzan Kadyrov has expressed its willingness to introduce sharia,
but this has not been done yet. The government, however, has already
implemented clothing regulations. There is an unspoken rule that all women
who work for the government should be wearing head scarves at work, and
all men working for the government must wear special clothes on Fridays.
Slowly but surely, the country is Islamizing.
It is believed that this gradual Islamizing process by the Chechen regime is
done out of pragmatism, to satisfy pressures of Islamist groups that are still
very strong throughout the country. The pressures to transform Chechnya in
all-Islamic caliphate have long existed, and they persist under Kadyrov’s
government. The largest mosque in the Caucasus has been built in
Chechnya’s capital, Grozny. The young people are disappointed with both the
corrupt government and the unemployment situation.
All indigenous Christians are Muslim Background Believers, who suffer greatly
from government and family oppression. There are very few Chechen
Christian group meetings and those have no more than 3-5 members. Local
authorities and relatives monitor the activities of Christians and put great
pressure on them to return to Islam. As in other countries, Christian
persecution is not only religious but also political, since Christianity is
associated with Russia, with whom they had a war. Chechen believers whose
faith becomes public are seen as traitors to Islam and society.
Christian conversion is a great social disgrace on the family, and sometimes
the “guilty” are killed to restore honor. When someone is discovered to be a
Christian, he risks being killed by his own family members. Fellowship with
other believers is almost impossible as well as openly confessing one’s faith.
The Church endures much hardship. People who have become known as
Christians have received serious death threats and have had to leave the
country.
The general religious climate in Chechnya has always been Islamic, and the
influence of Islam is growing. The only thing that contains the islamization of
the country is its political dependence upon Russia, but the risk for a new
independent uprising is still present. Chechnya remains one of the most
difficult places for Christians in Russia.
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21. China
Though China has dropped out of the top twenty for the first time in the WWL,
this is due to persecution getting worse in other countries and the Chinese
situation remaining relatively stable. Debate does rage over whether it is
getting better, and indeed some commentators argue persecution is largely
over, or whether it is getting worse. The truth, as usual, is a mixture of both.
Freedom rising?
Christianity continues to grow very rapidly in China today. Figures from even
official sources released in 2011 show that 23 million belong to the registered
or official Chinese Protestant church, and that there are between 40-50 million
unregistered Christians. Some other estimates are much higher. The most
rapidly growing strand is the so called “third wave” churches, i.e., neither
official, nor rural, but primarily urban, a form of “emerging church” composed
of highly educated, young professionals that seek to be more open in their
worship and in their relationship with the state and commit to engage with
society’s needs. To keep from government interference, they generally cap their
meeting numbers at 200, though many in certain cities rent large premises for
Sunday meetings, exploiting a legal uncertainty as to whether these churches
may own property and function independently.
Over 450 foreign ministries work in China today. House church leaders may
hold conferences abroad, and frequently ask for help for their “primary
discipleship challenge—dealing with materialism.” Christian bosses often hold
Bible studies with their workers in factories. Some networks seek to offer
humanitarian aid. Christian bookstores are popping up throughout the
country; unprecedented access to sermons, Bible translations, even interactive
prayer and counselling, is possible through the Internet for millions of
Christians, though not all of them.
In addition, credible sources from the Open Doors network report that
government representatives have been carrying on an open dialogue with
selected house church leaders, leading many to believe that the government is
“finally understanding that the house church Christians are not a political
threat to the state.” One political leader was heard to warn his colleagues, “We
do not want to be fighting our friends.” Also, there is evidence that the
government needs to find allies to deal with the dangerous moral vacuum that
is developing as a result of “crony capitalism,” corruption and inequality, and it
may consider the church to be such a valuable ally. When house churches
assisted so prominently in the aftermath of the Sichuan earthquake in May
2008, many point to a change of attitude among political leaders from
negative to positive as a result.
Freedom worsening?
China is still a one-party state, with a government that fails to grant most
Christians their full religious rights. Even those who worship in officially
sanctioned churches are formally allowed to practice their faith only inside the
church building. The government prevented China’s Christian delegates from
travelling to a Cape Town gathering last October because they were forbidden
to sign the Lausanne Covenant ahead of the meeting, which mandated a far
broader commitment to evangelism than China would allow. Worse, it is a
government that is getting increasingly paranoid in the light of the Arab
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Spring, and the budget for internal security in the next five-year plan actually
surpasses the defense budget.
Headlines have been dominated in 2011 by a large independent house
church in Beijing, the Shouwang church. It was deliberately seeking to clarify
the legal position of house churches to determine if house churches could
own property without becoming part of the official church. After fruitlessly
seeking legal guidance from the authorities, they went ahead, refurbished a
third floor of a building and sought to buy it from a landlord. When the
landlord was willing to sell, the government stepped in to prevent the church
from buying it. The incident became a grim public spectacle on April 11 when
members attempted to meet in the new premises. They were barred, and a
group held services in protest in the open air. One of the pastors of the
1,000-strong congregation has been put under house arrest, and according
to China Aid more than 700 members have been detained for short periods
since then. It must be said that the Shouwang church is confronting the
government deliberately to gain clarity on whether a genuinely independent
status can be achieved for a house church, but it is a stance that has drawn
criticism from other house church leaders, one of whom said, “Look, you
have to play cat and mouse—we know we can worship if we don’t put a sign
up and or look too official.”
Nevertheless, more severe repression was a reality for some in the reporting
period, especially among those who seek to press for rights, justice and
supporting the Shouwang church. One pastor, Shi Enhao, was sentenced to
two years labor camp in July, supposedly for organizing “illegal meetings,” a
code for house churches. But the real reason was his belonging to an
organization called the Chinese House Church Alliance, where seventeen
pastors presented a petition to the national People’s Congress on May 10
calling for more freedom. The whereabouts of prominent Christian defense
lawyer Gao Zhisheng remains a mystery since his disappearance into police
custody in February 2009, and Chinese authorities remain tight-lipped despite
well-publicized appeals in 2011. Those who work with Uyghur churches face
severe harassment, as China clamps down on Muslim extremism. Xinjiang
house church leader Alimujiang Yimiti, jailed for 15 years in August of 2009
for allegedly “unlawfully providing state secrets to overseas organizations”
was told in February 2011 that his appeal had been unsuccessful. China Aid
organization said the number of Christians detained in the reporting period
exceeded 300 over eleven provinces, though few were sentenced.
Future Freedom?
Few expect major changes in the church-state dynamics in the coming years,
especially with the tense political environment that always precedes a top
leadership change (in Fall 2012 for the Party and in Spring 2013 for the
State). The Chinese Communist Party is not about to share power with any
group or institution any time soon, and as long as that is the case, the church
will be relatively free only insofar as it does not threaten the paranoia of the
Party. There is a space of opportunity for churches and ministries. But the
rules of engagement are never clear, and as the newer house churches seek
to press for more justice and influence in society, and encroach on activities
hitherto regarded as the monopoly of the state, it may get worse again.
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22. Qatar
The Economist Intelligence Unit summarizes the situation of Qatar as follows:
“The emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, will focus on economic and
foreign policy issues. However, given the ongoing regional social unrest, he will
be increasingly inclined to initiate domestic political reforms.” As in other Arab
countries, 2011 was characterized by unseen levels of social unrest, although in
the case of Qatar, the position of the reigning emir was never threatened. One
of the reasons that the reigning emir was never threatened was because he
raised the public sector salaries by 60%.
Nearly all Qatari citizens and nationals (approximately 225,000) are by
definition either Sunni or Shi'a Muslims, and the state religion is strictly
conservative Islam. The majority of the estimated more than 1.8 million people
in Qatar are foreigners on temporary employment contracts who are treated as
slaves. There are approximately 90,000 Christians in the country, most of them
foreign workers.
The Qatari Constitution declares that ‘freedom to practice religious rites shall
be guaranteed to all persons in accordance with the law and the requirements
of the maintenance of public order and morality.’ In reality, expat Christians are
restricted in practicing their faith. The government prohibits proselytizing of
non-Muslims and restricts public worship, which is usually only allowed in
assigned compounds. Foreign workers who evangelize are frequently deported.
Some have had the renewal of their visa denied afterwards. During the current
reporting period, several foreign workers were deported for their Christian
activities. Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox, Coptic, and Asian Christian churches
have legal status and only expats can attend. Recognition is hard to obtain, at
least 1,500 registered congregants are required.
A Muslim who converts from Islam to another religion is considered an
apostate and may face the death penalty. However, no execution or other
punishment for apostasy has been recorded since the country’s independence
in 1971. Nevertheless, converts face severe persecution from their families and
peers as well as from the government, which does not recognize their
conversion and considers them Muslims. From time to time, we receive reports
that Muslim Background Believers (MBBs) are being physically harmed for their
faith by family or peers, who view the conversion as harming the honor of the
family. As a result of this oppression, MBBs strongly protect their anonymity.
This year, the total of points for Qatar decreased slightly (47 versus 48.5 last
year) bringing the country from position 17 to 22. Yet this does not mean the
situation for Christians has improved. The minor decrease in points is explained
by the fact that we did not receive any reports of physical harm of Christians
(though it is very likely that this happens, especially to MBBs) and fewer
Christian foreign workers were deported for Christian activities than last year.
It is hard to tell what the future will look like for Qatar. As long as the people
are kept satisfied through increased salaries or “Arab Spring pay-offs,” the
status quo may well remain in the oil and gas rich Gulf state. However, since
the latest riots in the Middle East, the local population seems to becoming
more open to change and this may be the beginning of a more open attitude
towards the gospel as well.
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23. Algeria
Starting in December 2010, major protests in Algeria against the
authoritarian regime led to the lifting of the 19-year-old state of emergency,
imposed to help the Algerian authorities during a brutal conflict with Islamist
rebels in the 1990s. The protests, in which 5 people were killed and over 800
injured, were brought to a halt after only a few months due to massive police
repression. Unlike in neighboring countries, these protests did not bring
about a regime change. The military government headed by President
Abdelaziz Bouteflika is still largely in place and its continuity was not really
threatened by the lifting of the state of emergency, although it is of symbolic
importance.
Recent Algerian politics have been characterized by high levels of instability,
but oppression of Christians has been constant. Church leaders indicate that
there is an increase of pressure on Christians and that many doors are
closing. The very young Algerian church (mostly consisting of first generation
believers) faces many forms of discrimination by the state and by family
members. Islamist groups, particularly Salafists, encouraged by the Arab
Spring in other North African countries, are increasing their pressure on a
government that already works with Islamic parties; however, the Islamic
Salvation Front (FIS) is still forbidden. Islamists are becoming more and more
visible and monitor the activity of Christians.
Algeria dropped to position 24 after ranking 22nd on last year’s WWL, but it
increased in points. In 2011, the situation for Christians in Algeria
deteriorated slightly, with an increase in the number of reported incidents.
The court case of Karim Siaghi, a Christian convert who was sentenced to 5
years of prison in May, is an example of this. He gave a Christian CD to a
neighbor on his request who then claimed Siaghi had insulted Muhammad.
Another example of persecution is the church closures by the governor of
Bejaïa Province; he stated that all churches in the province were illegal
because they were unregistered. The government has not registered any new
churches since enforcing Ordinance 06-03 in February 2008, so many
Christian citizens continue to meet in unofficial "house churches," which are
often homes or business offices of church members. Some of these groups
meet openly, while others secretly hold worship services in homes.
The apparently positive news that the EPA (Algerian Protestant Church) finally
obtained registration after many years turned out to be a disappointment.
Although the exact reasons for the central government to recognize the EPA
as a council of Protestant churches are not known, it is believed that the
government wanted to give a good impression to the international
community. However, no real freedom was given and local churches must still
obtain their own registration. The recognition of the EPA did in fact bring
more control. On a local level oppression has intensified and no local
churches belonging to the EPA have been registered. There are reports of
local churches being closed and missionaries detained. The very restrictive
ordinance 06-03 that prohibits proselytizing is still enforced. For the coming
year, no dramatic improvements in the situation of Algerian Christians are
expected.
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24. Comoros
Although Comoros went down in the World Watch List 2012 from position 21
to 24, the persecution dynamics stayed the same: though hardly any incident
was reported, government restraints remained tight and mainstream Muslim
society firmly stayed alert for “dissidents.” In the context of Islamic extremism
both government and society acted as drivers of persecution, but the emphasis
was on society.
A referendum passed in May 2009 installed Islam to be the state religion,
infringing seriously upon freedom of religion. The penal code prohibits
proselytizing for any religion except Islam. Any converts from Islam to
Christianity can be prosecuted in court. Therefore, Muslim Background Believers
operate in underground fellowships. Only expatriates are allowed to operate
churches in the country. Police are vigilant and question foreigners closely so
that they don’t distribute religious materials.
The indigenous Muslim community puts much pressure on non-Muslim citizens
and foreigners to practice elements of Islam in Comoros, particularly during
Ramadan. This intimidates non-Muslims and causes them to worship in
seclusion and in fear. To see such harshness from the Islanders is unexpected.
Most citizens know each other well and are friendly to each other regardless of
faith. The influence of radical elements from Iran, however, causes Muslims in
local mosques to be vigilant about Christian activities. A source person stated,
“Through them the Christian faith is constantly vilified, they hype the emotions,
and encourage persecution.”
Iranian influence goes back to Ahmed Abdallah Mohamed Sambi, the previous
President of Comoros elected in May 2006. He was a cleric and businessman
who studied Islamic political theory in Iran and was a close friend to Iranian
President Mahmoud Ahmedinajad. They developed bilateral ties on economic
issues and exchange of research, technology and information in 2006. Ever
since, the two countries have had cultural and political commonalities, and
have maintained close relations. The political and religious influence of Iran has
been very strong, now even more with the demise of Col. Muamar Gadaffi of
Libya, who was trying to compete with Iran.
The new believers have withstood a lot of pressure, and now they have more
acceptance in some parts of society than before. For instance, in Gran Comoros
the believers have to worship in secret. Relatives of the people have accepted
the new faith of the believers, while the other parties (police, extremist
elements, Mosque leadership) are not open to this. In the region Anjouan,
especially the town Mutsamadu, the believers and their place of worship are
known, but nobody has bothered them. This positive tendency is however
balanced by a mainstream society that sternly guards Muslim rules and
worship, and radical elements from Iran who eagerly correct signs of
weakening of anti-Christian sentiment. Whether actively involved or not,
government has established the necessary framework for this persecution
dynamic. Open Doors expects persecution to grow in the near future. The
number of believers is reported to be growing in size and strength. Although
numbers are still very limited, that can’t but encourage negative reactions from
the different parties involved in the religious setting in the Comoros.
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25. Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan ranks lower than last year, but increased in points.
The Republic of Azerbaijan, bordering Russia, Georgia, Armenia, Turkey and
Iran, is officially a secular state, somewhat comparable to the Turkish model.
The majority of its population is Muslim. The government has a negative
attitude towards any form of religion. The attitude towards Christians is not
different. Fundamentalist Islam is perceived as a destabilizing factor for the
country’s rulers. The presence of a huge Azeri community in Islamic Iran to the
south is a cause of concern.
The influence of traditional Islam is growing in various regions of this country.
The oppression of Christians is not only religious, but also nationalistic/ethnic.
Azeri believers are considered traitors as Christianity is associated with the
country’s archenemy, Armenia.
The general perception of Christians in Azerbaijan is negative. According to our
reports, official checks are becoming increasingly strict. The government has
become more active in controlling religion, and, compared to previous years,
the position of Christians has deteriorated. All churches and religious groups
were required to renew their registration by Jan. 1, 2010, but since that date
no new churches have been able to get registration. Unregistered religious
activities are punishable, and the fines on breaking the law are high, but
successful registration is close to impossible. Almost all Protestant
denominations are still without legal status. Private homes cannot be used for
holding religious services. Congregations without registration get into trouble
with the police. Protestant churches are raided, with church leaders arrested or
fined.
There is no freedom at all to build church buildings. Churches need explicit
permission to do so, and this is hardly ever granted. Over the past year no such
permission was given. Christians often refrain from even beginning the
permission procedure. Under the December 2010 legislation, it is illegal for
unregistered churches to meet, but some take the risk anyway.
Many Christians are unable to find or keep jobs and are watched closely by the
secret services. The role of the secret services and police is important, but there
is also a Committee on Religious Affairs which controls almost everything.
However, the number of indigenous believers continues to grow, and some
continue to be active in outreach despite the risk. The growth of the church is
encouraging, but under increasing legislative restrictions, oppression is also
expected to increase.
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26. Libya
Libya drops one position on the WWL to number 27, but increases in points.
Under the despotic rule of Muammar Gaddafi, the situation for Christians in
Libya was already extremely harsh. There were some freedoms for expat
Christians, who are mostly temporary workers from neighboring African
countries. Black and non-Arab Africans faced racism. Immediately after the
revolution, it was difficult for them as they were seen as possible mercenaries
working for Gaddafi. During Gaddafi’s reign, Libya did not have a real
constitution. There was a book with some legal prescriptions called the Green
Book, but in practice Gaddafi’s will was law. The feared and omnipresent secret
police made sure that restrictions on the organization of church activities and
distribution of Christian literature were enforced and evangelism was
criminalized.
As in most Muslim countries, converting from Islam brings social pressure.
Muslim Background Believers are always at risk from their families; there were
some reported cases of beatings by family members. Most Libyan Christians are
afraid to meet with other believers, as any kind of religious gathering (other
than Islamic) for Libyans is forbidden. Expats are allowed to have their own
churches, but Libyans are not allowed to attend. This last year, many expat
churches had their permits withdrawn, and at least two Christians were
imprisoned and possibly tortured. Christians that are released from prison are
generally expelled from the country.
The revolutions in neighboring Egypt and Tunisia, and the military support by
NATO, gave Libyans the courage to fight Gaddafi, who had been in power since
1969. But after a bloody civil war that led to the death of Gaddafi, it is feared
the future will be worse than under Gaddafi. During the uprisings that started
in February and led to civil war, Christians were more open about their faith in
Jesus Christ. These Christians now fear the consequences of their witness.
Because of the unrest, 75% of the expat Christians left the country and it is not
clear how many Christians remain or will return in the future.
The National Transition Council (NTC) that took over after months of fighting
has already revealed its intentions regarding religious freedom by setting a
dangerous precedent. Under their supervision the Saint Georges Church in
Tripoli was ransacked when they took control of Tripoli. Also, two Christians
have been held hostage by the NTC because of importing Christian books. The
NTC is expected to implement sharia law and make Libya an even more Islamic
state than before. The then president of the NTC publically announced a
“democracy according to sharia,” which is a contradiction in itself. This would
make the position of Christians even more difficult than before, in a country
where all citizens were already considered Sunni Muslims by law.
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27. Oman
Oman has seen protests and civil unrest since January 2011, which caused
the deaths of two people. However, after promising to create 50,000 jobs,
allowing citizens more freedom of speech, improving the social welfare
system and changing the cabinet, most turmoil faded away.
There is no visible change in the situation of the local Christians. The Omani
Constitution declares that “the freedom to practice religious rites in
accordance with recognized customs is guaranteed provided that it does not
disrupt public order or conflict with accepted standards of behavior.” Islam is
the state religion and legislation is based on Islamic law. All public school
curriculums include instruction in Islam. Apostasy is not a criminal offense,
but it is not respected by the legal system either, which assumes that all
citizens are Muslims. The very concept of change of faith for an Omani citizen
is an anathema. A converts faces problems under the Personal Status and
Family Legal Code, which prohibits a father from having custody of his
children if he leaves Islam. During the reporting period, deportations of
foreign workers (because of Christian activities) continued.
Almost the entire Christian population (around 35,000) is expatriate; there
are only a few indigenous Christians. All religious organizations must register,
and Christian meetings are monitored for political messages and nationals
attending. Foreign Christians are allowed to discretely worship in private
homes or work compounds. Their facilities are restricted in order not to
offend nationals. Muslim-background believers (MBBs) risk persecution from
family and society. MBBs can lose their family, house and job and even could
be killed.
There was a minor increase in points (now 42 versus 41 for the last WWL) for
Oman which was mainly caused by the above mentioned deportations and by
more information on the constitution and national laws, which are more
restrictive on religious freedom than previously assumed. The small increase
in points does not lead to a higher ranking on the WWL: Oman holds position
42 (versus 41 last year). This apparent paradox is explained by the
considerable increase in numbers for other countries on this year’s list.
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28. Brunei
Brunei is a small state on the South East Asian island of Borneo, embedded in
the Malaysian State. The observation of the small Christian minority has
tightened, thus bringing a slight increase in the country’s position in this
year’s World Watch List.
Brunei Darussalam is an Islamic nation, based on an ideology called Melayu
Islam Beraja (Malay Muslim Monarchy). The religion of Brunei Darussalam is
the Muslim Religion according to the Shafeite sect of that religion. All other
religions may be practiced in peace and harmony by the person professing it
in any part of the country. In practice, this means that only non-Malays are
able and allowed to choose their faith. If a Malay converts, this “disturbs
peace and harmony” and he is automatically scheduled for re-education to
the Islamic faith.
In the reporting period the Sultan announced his aim to introduce an Islamic
Criminal Law which will complicate the situation for the small Christian
minority even further, especially for Muslim-background believers known to
have converted. The monitoring of churches and Christian meetings seems to
have increased. The state sends spies to those gatherings, so Christians have
to exercise more caution. In one case, a pastor was openly warned by
authorities to be cautious with his Christian activites and with whom he
meets.
It is very difficult for existing churches to get the government’s permission to
renovate a church building. Permission for expansions is never granted,
whether churches are registered or not. Importing Bibles, Christian literature,
and other materials is restricted to personal use only. Importing for ministry
purposes is not possible. Materials in the national language are especially
suspect and thus difficult to obtain. Accordingly, churches have to be careful;
they experience challenges in training and work.
As long as the state demonstrates preference for one specific religion, denies
freedom of religious choice, and links conversion with peace and harmony in
society, nothing substantial will change for the Christian minority.
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29. Morocco
The revolutionary wave that went through North Africa and the Middle East
known as the Arab Spring has also flooded Morocco. In the case of Morocco,
the protests did not bring the monarchy to an end, but King Mohammed VI
had to adopt a number of reforms in order to restore social peace. The protests
were finally subdued in July, forcing the King to vast political concessions,
including government changes, a referendum on constitutional reforms, a
greater commitment to respect civil rights and an end to corruption.
Out of pragmatism, Mohammed VI—who is considered a direct descendent of
the prophet Mohammed, the founder of Islam—has given in to the pressure of
the moderate Islamic Justice and Development Party (PJD). In the parliamentary
elections that were held at the end of 2011, the PJD obtained a huge victory,
and based on the new constitutional procedures, must now provide a Prime
Minister.
The Moroccan church is not recognized by the authorities, but the expat
Church is. The expat Moroccan church has always suffered from oppression,
although it was never as harsh as in neighboring North African countries. The
main source of persecution is Muslim fundamentalist influence on the
authorities and in society.
Islam is the official state religion, but the constitution provides some freedom
of religion. There are, nevertheless, a number of practical restrictions in
exercising this freedom. For example, the government prohibits the distribution
of Christian religious materials, bans all proselytizing, and tolerates several
small religious minorities with varying degrees of restrictions. Foreign Christian
communities openly practice their faith. Voluntary conversion is not a crime in
Moroccan law, and is therefore implicitly accepted. However, Moroccan
Muslims who convert to Christianity are treated as criminals by the police and
face rejection from friends and most family members.
Compared to 2011, the situation of Christians in Morocco seems to have
improved a little. Morocco, nevertheless, goes up on the WWL, basically
because Islamist forces are becoming more visible in the country. While 2010
was characterized by big pressures on the Moroccan church and the expulsion
of over 150 missionaries and Christian expatriate workers, 2011 did not see
many incidents against Christians. The authorities dedicated most of their
energy and resources to control the uprisings throughout the country, which
gave them less time to monitor Moroccan Christians and churches.
The Arab Spring gave the younger Christian generation a feeling of hope and
so they are encouraged to struggle for more freedom. The future will tell
whether this hope will become a reality, or if government restrictions will
increase again. “Can Morocco’s Islamists check al-Qaeda?” Le Monde
Diplomatique asked in 2007. This is still a valid question today. The answer to
this question will depend on how moderate the Islamists in government will be,
and if moderate Muslims will be able to form a coalition to withstand the
pressures of al-Qaeda and other fundamentalist groups.
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30. Kuwait
“The popular uprisings witnessed across the Middle East and North Africa
region since early 2011 have inspired some protests in Kuwait, but these are
unlikely to lead to any radical changes in the system,’’ stated a November 30th
report of the Economist Intelligence Unit. However, Kuwait’s Prime Minister
Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah and his cabinet resigned in December
2011 over an alleged corruption row with their parliamentary opponents.
The Kuwaiti Constitution declares that the State protects the freedom of belief.
However, it also mentions some limitations: the practice of religion should not
conflict with public order or morals and be in accordance with established
customs. The government implemented these restrictions from time to time.
According to the constitution, Islam is the state religion and Islamic law (sharia)
is an important source of legislation.
Conversion from Islam to another religion is not permitted and the government
actively supported proselytism by Sunni Muslims. For MBBs, the main
persecution engines are family and Muslim extremists, and to a lesser extent
authorities. There are only a few hundred Kuwaiti believers (MBBs), as most
Christians are migrant workers from outside the country. The MBB number is
growing rapidly and they are becoming bolder and bolder in sharing their faith.
Converts risk discrimination, harassment, police monitoring of their activities,
arbitrary arrest and detention, physical and verbal abuse. Also, a change of
faith (away from Islam) is not recognized and is likely to lead to legal problems
in personal status and property matters in court. The government requires
Islamic religious instruction for all students in public and private schools.
Teaching Christianity is prohibited, even to legally recognized Christians. The
Christian community mostly consists of foreign migrant workers. Expat
Christians are relatively free to worship informally. There are four registered
denominations which meet in compounds. However, these are too small for the
number of people gathering and local Kuwaitis are annoyed by the noise and
traffic of these overcrowded meeting places. The extreme difficulty to obtain
property to gather for worship is an extra burden. On the other hand, the
sharing of meeting places has encouraged greater cooperation and fellowship
among churches.
The situation of religious freedom for Christians has been more or less stable
over the past few years. During the previous reporting period we received
reports of a Christian who had to flee for his faith and a Christian was arrested.
Also during this reporting period, a Christian was forced to flee. We did not
report any arrests, but this does not necessarily mean it did not happen. This
year Open Doors gathered more information on the constitution and national
laws, which are more restrictive on religious freedom than previously assumed.
This led to a minor increase in points, from 40 last year to 40.5 this year,
bringing Kuwait to place 30 from position 28 last year.
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31. Turkey
Turkey went from rank 30 in 2011 to rank 31 this year, but increased in points.
In name, Turkey is a secular state, but various forms of persecution of Christians
exist. Government restrictions on religious freedom basically originate in
interpretations of the secular constitution and laws of the country, which are
biased against non-Muslim minorities. There is a huge difference between the
formal interpretation of the country’s secular legislation and the informal
practices by government officials, police officers and judges.
Government restrictions, social hostilities and nationalism are important sources
of persecution, causing human rights violations (hate crimes, unfair judicial
treatments, discrimination, etc.). People with a Muslim background who are
interested in the gospel are often victims of strong discrimination by their
families. In a patriarchal society such as in Turkey, a conversion of one of the
family members is thought to bring shame on the family. Many converted
Christians are disinherited or are told they are no longer part of the family.
Muslims who convert to the Christian faith risk losing their jobs. The government
remains passive when they learn of these types of discrimination, because it only
concerns a very small minority.
Some churches are registered and have authorizations to organize church
services. Preaching in public is allowed, but these preachers risk harassment both
by police and Turkish nationalists. Missionary work is possible, but missionaries
do not get a residency permit if they request it to work as a missionary.
A Bible translation in modern Turkish was made available years ago, and the
printing and distribution of Bibles and Christian literature in churches is
permissible, though open distribution results in problems.
Christians engaged in religious advocacy are occasionally threatened or
pressured by government and state officials. Proselytizing by non-Muslim
religious groups is socially unacceptable and sometimes dangerous.
Police officers are present in some church services to protect church-goers, but
also to monitor the activities of Christians. However, this protection is
intermittent, and from time to time church properties are vandalized.
The traditionally secular state, under constant protection by the national army,
has in recent years become more open to public expressions of Islam under the
government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo an and President Abdullah Gül
of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), in power since 2002.
When Turkey was actively negotiating its membership in the European Union, the
country adopted a series of reforms in order to comply with the Copenhagen
criteria. These initially contributed to increased religious tolerance in the country
and protection for minorities. The Malatya murders in 2007 negatively affected
Turkey’s image on the international stage, and the trial against the murderers is
still ongoing. The needed reforms, however, were not completed, and while
some improvements can be seen, the country has not succeeded in completely
eliminating discrimination against Christians. Only the Armenian and Greek
Orthodox denominations are officially recognized by the government.
Oppression of Christians is expected to continue, as the legal and social position
of Christian minorities is not improving.
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33. India
India’s staying in the same place in the WWL this year shows that conditions have not improved.
Disruptive violence against evangelists, pastors and church gatherings continues to occur on a monthly
basis, usually where the Christians live and work in remote or rural areas. Compiling from several
sources, a total of 109 incidents of anti-Christian violence were recorded in the reporting period, usually
where a pastor or evangelist would be attacked and badly beaten by a mob, and the authorities failed
to respond in an adequate fashion.
The main persecutors are mobs organized by extremist Hindu organizations who
peddle their exclusivist ideology, Hindutva, which believes that those belonging to
other religions have no place in India and should be forced to leave. Despite
being voted out of national power, the Bharatija Janata Party (BJP)—the political
party backed by Hindu extremists that pushes the Hindu extremist agenda—is in
power in states where two-thirds of the population live, and they continue to seek
to embed their extremist and revisionist version of their religion into the cultural
mainstream, with some success. “Hindu extremism going viral is the greatest
threat to the church today,” said a church leader in Delhi in August. Local
governments and police often side with those who commit the violence, resulting
in a virtual amnesty for thugs.
No large scale violence of the kind witnessed in Orissa in 2008 was seen in the reporting period, but
consequences continue. According to the national minorities commission reporting late in 2011, of the
827 criminal cases registered in Kandhamal, 512 cases have been formally charged, and 361 people in
65 cases have been convicted. But a total of 2,246 people have been acquitted due to lack of proper
evidence against them, so far. The remaining 321 cases are under trial.
Sporadic violence continues in the area and last Christmas (2010) some 200 extremists barged into a
Christmas day celebration in the village of Koyi Konda, beat up the worshippers, destroyed furniture,
and set fire to ten Christian homes and crop fields. In Maharashta state on May 2, Hindu extremists
stopped the construction of a church building and organized a boycott against the local Christians, even
to the extent of preventing their children attending the local school. Such incidents are almost
commonplace, and accompanied by the usual accusation that the Christians have been guilty of “forced
conversion” or “conversion by allurement/inducement”—an accusation that carries a legal penalty.
Persecution is drawn due to the amazing success Christianity is having among the low castes and
untouchables, or Dalits, which threatens the Hindu leaders. The Christian Church is growing
significantly. Officially Christians form 2.3% of the 1.2+ billion population, but there is credible
evidence to suggest the percentage may be higher than 5%, or over 70 million Christians. There is also
increasing tension between Muslims and Christians in Kerela, Kashmir and Assam, and Maoist insurgents
and Buddhist fundamentalists are threatening Christians in certain regions also, a minor but growing
trend.
Despite this, India remains a largely pluralistic country, and most Christian leaders find their main
problems deal with the grinding poverty levels. Forty percent of India’s population under 5 are
malnourished; a staggering 72% of Indian children never attend high school; there are 60 million child
laborers and still 600 million people do not have access to electricity. An Indian legislator, Dr Shashi
Tharoor, says India “is destined not be a superpower, but super-poor.”
While most Christians remain relatively free, many parts of the country remain key battlegrounds
between Hindu extremists and Christians. The extremists are especially regrouping in the rural areas,
setting up schools to raise up a new “Hindu Taleban,” and even educated leaders are seeking to make
Hinduism a much less tolerant religion. According to Rev Richard Howell, the General Secretary of the
Evangelical Fellowship of India, “...Christians in India continue to face the worst ever persecution in
India.” Christians are bracing for increasing persecution in the future.
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33. Burma/Myanmar
“The wind of change streams through the country!” In a nutshell, that is what
observers like the International Crisis Group say about Myanmar after its
transition to a new, semi-civilian government in March. Several positive signs
are observable since the new leadership has taken office, stirring hopes that
significant changes are indeed underway. Two of these signs are the
comeback into the political arena for Aung San Suu Kyi and the possible re-
admission of her party, the National League for Democracy, and the release of
hundreds of imprisoned political dissidents. But there are some dark shadows
on the bright prospects connected with the new government: the majority of
the so-called “political prisoners,” totaling at least two thousand, are still
imprisoned. Also the army’s war against ethnic rebels—most of whom are
Christians by name and religious affiliation—is at least as intense as before.
According to several reports, the Burmese Army repeatedly entered Christian
villages of the Kachin tribe, harassing and harming believers and sometimes
forcing them to serve as porters. In one case in August this year, the army
turned a Christian village into a full-fledged military outpost, including
fortifications, trenches and landmines. Though the believers sent a letter of
complaint to the authorities, nothing has been done to help the Christians by
the new government. This event fits into a long history of ethnic conflict with
the Kachin tribe, which lives in the northern border region to China and India.
As international observers stated, the ongoing reaction of the armed forces
doesn’t match the rhetoric of the new president speaking about
reconciliation.
On the other hand, a new Human Rights Commission was established in
September, with minorities duly represented on it. A renowned and respected
member of the Christian Kachin minority is serving as a member. As the
commission has only recently been created, it remains to be seen how
independently this commission will operate and what specific responsibilities
it will have. Nevertheless, its formation is an encouraging sign. Thus, in the
2012 World Watch List, Burma slightly decreased in points, but dropped
considerably in ranking due to changes within other countries. Because of this
considerable drop, it is necessary to stress that there are still no dramatic
visible changes to persecution within Burma.
Whether the winds of change will alter the predicament of the Christian
minority remains unclear. Pressure from society and the military appears to be
unchanged at this time. One Protestant church leader expressed concern,
saying the new measures could be a short-lived effort to get the rotating chair
of ASEAN (the association of South East Asian States) for 2014—which the
country obtained recently—while convincing the international community to
lift its sanctions.
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34. Tajikistan
This year, Tajikistan ranks a little lower than in 2011. Unfortunately, this has
nothing to do with an improvement in the situation for the Christian minority
in the country, but rather with the unusual situation of the split of Sudan which
boosted Northern Sudan up almost 20 places in the list. Though there have
been no substantial changes, the country dropped down two places on the list.
The new laws on religion distinguish between registered and unregistered
churches in a very strict way and are likely to cause more trouble for MBBs in
the future. It is not completely clear how the laws will be implemented, but
given the experiences of the believers until now, a further deterioration seems
possible.
In August 2011, authorities introduced a new “Parental Responsibility Law”
which holds parents fully responsible for the religious activities of their
children. This law singles out Tajikistan compared to the other Central Asian
states—less in practical, but rather on the legal and ideological level. It had
been difficult and cumbersome to conduct Sunday School activities or youth
camps in the past, but now the new law restricts all participation of persons
under age 18 in any religious activity, except funerals. Children can only receive
religious education in government-licensed institutes. More than half of
Tajikistan`s population is under age 18. Parents disobeying this law face heavy
fines and even prison sentences from between 5 and 8 years. The government
recently proved its determination in religious matters by stopping young
Muslims entering mosques for the Eid-al-Fitr prayers celebrating the end of
Ramadan in August 2011. Given this example, the small Christian minority
might face growing problems in the future.
Believers, especially MBBs, encounter attacks and harassment, and are
monitored and being pressurized into renouncing their Christian faith. A very
strong source of persecution is the family, but also society as a whole. As long
as the overall situation in the Central Asian region does not change, the
Christian minority will face constant and probably increasing restrictions on
their freedom.
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35. Tunisia
Tunisia is the country that started the movement of demonstrations, protests
and revolutions that spread throughout North Africa and the Middle East, later
known as the “Arab Spring.” It is also the country where the democratic
transition seems to have the greatest chance of success based on its politically
activist tradition and its generally well-educated population. Tunisia is known
as the most liberal country in the region, depending heavily on tourism. This
being said, the country faces important challenges. According to the
International Crisis Group (ICG), Tunisia “will need to balance the urge for
radical political change against the requirement of stability; integrate
Islamism into the new landscape; and, with international help, tackle deep
socio-economic problems.”
A broad coalition of the unemployed, lawyers, intellectuals, middle class
workers and trade unions demanding radical political change was behind the
Jasmine revolution of December 18, 2010, that led to the ousting of President
Ben Ali and Prime Minister Ghannouchi. In October 2011, the first election
was held. These elections were won by the Islamic Ennahda party, which has
already announced its intention to move towards the implementation of
sharia law and to transform Tunisia into an Islamic state.
Due to the high levels of polarization in Tunisian between the liberal, secularist
elite and the well-organized Islamists, it is unclear how much of the Islamic
agenda will be implemented, but the country has been affected by constant
turmoil in the aftermath of the revolution. Radical Muslims, most of them
exiled to France, are returning to the country and spreading their
fundamentalist messages. They are organizing violent demonstrations that the
weakened security services of the government find difficult to contain.
The extremely violent murder of Father Marek Rybinski, a Polish priest and
Salesian missionary, in February 2011 is a clear example of the increasing
religious violence in the country. Another example of religious violence is the
case of a local church leader who had to leave the country because of grave
threats against the lives of him and his family.
At the moment, although the constitution of Tunisia respects freedom of
religion and conversion from Islam is not prohibited, representatives of the
administration at every level often act differently. Foreign Christian residents
experience more inspections and suspect their phones to be tapped. Pastors of
expat churches are monitored, and importation of Christian books in the Arabic
language is obstructed. National churches cannot register—since independence
(1956) no new church has been granted official registration—and local
Christians are questioned and beaten once their conversion is known.
Reports from the field indicate that pressure on Christians, coming both from
the authorities and from the families of Muslim-background believers, has
increased since the Jasmine revolution. In this context, it is yet to be seen
whether the democratic transition will improve the situation of the small
Christian population in the country.
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36. Syria
Violence and protests against the government of President Bashar al-Assad
have lasted for months, and the situation in the country can best be
described as chaotic. “The current stage [of Syria] is defined by an explosive
mix of heightened strategic stakes tying into a regional and wider
international competition on the one hand and emotionally charged
attitudes, communal polarization and political wishful thinking on the other,”
analyzes the International Crisis Group in its most recent brief on Syria (the
Nov. 24, 2011, brief on Syria by the International Crisis Group). Three central
messages can be distilled from this analysis: the social and political climate of
Syria is extremely explosive—the country is on the verge of civil war—and if
the current regime would collapse, whatever regime replaces it will not
necessarily be more democratic.
Syria has more than 20 million inhabitants and 1.9 million of them are
Christians. The Christian community lived in relatively peaceful circumstances
under the secular regime of President Bashar al-Assad. As long as Christians
did not disturb communal harmony or threaten the government, they were
tolerated and had freedom of worship. The recognized church of Syria is not
a hidden or secret church. It is respected in society, although every Christian
meeting is monitored by the secret police. However, these churches often
cannot and will not evangelize openly in Syria because of political pressure
and agreements with other religious leaders. Muslim background believers
face many problems, mostly from family and friends.
The government has to deal with extremist Islamic groups who are against
Christians and other minorities. Many extremist foreign fighters (mostly from
other Arabic countries) have been living and operating in Syria since March
2011, as a hegemony battle between the Iranian axis and the U.S.-Saudi/Gulf
Arab axis is being fought in the country. These foreign fighters have been
entering houses and threatening many Christians and other minority groups.
Anti-Christian sentiments are clearly on the increase amidst the current
violent and chaotic situation in the country.
As one of the minority religions, most Christians have been supportive of the
Alawite regime in the past, since that regime gave them relative peace and
rest. But nowadays most Christians are not supportive of any regime; they
just want a peaceful agreement and situation. But supporting the Alawite
regime in the past has made them vulnerable to attacks from the opposition.
They are also at risk for religious reasons, as fundamental Islamic groups
oppose any religion other than Islam in the country.
Since March mostly Sunni and Salafi protesters have been taking the streets
to demonstrate against the government. Frustrations of the majority religious
group have mounted after decades of domination by the minority Alawite
elites. Anti-Christian tensions first appeared in the form of threats. During
several demonstrations, Christians were forced to participate or were called
upon to immigrate to Lebanon; Alawites are threatened with death. The
situation has further worsened. Recently, Christian meeting places—mainly
churches—have been raided, resulting in physical damage. In one city,
Christians are afraid to leave their homes and do not attend church meetings
any more. Local Christians report that fundamentalist taxi drivers made a vow
that they will harm any unveiled female client. These women, mostly less
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orthodox Muslims and Christians, are being kidnapped, raped or even killed.
Some months ago, two Christian women were kidnapped in Damascus. One
managed to jump out of the driving car, but the other was taken and remains
missing. Amidst this threatening situation, Christians intend to celebrate
Christmas quietly, so they don’t draw too much attention to themselves.
Considering these developments, it is not amazing that the total of points for
Syria increased from 34.5 last year to 39 this year; putting it on place 36
(from 38).
What can be expected for the future of Christians in Syria? As long as the
Alawites remain united, the power continues to be in the hands of the Al
Assad clan. The Alawite will continue to control the military-intelligence
apparatus, and the Baath party will continue to hold monopoly on the
political system. Bashir’s regime seems to be quite firmly seated. In spite of
the current deplorable human rights situation in the country, Christians prefer
a continuation of a secular regime that doesn’t have much religious input
from Islam. Though it is hard to predict how events will unfold, a change of
government is expected to lead to a situation of anarchy and struggle for
power. This will likely result in an Islamist extremist take over—leading to a
worse situation for Christians and other minority groups. Should that
happen, Christians will either be isolated or driven from the country en
masse—a situation comparable to the one in Iraq.
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37. United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates is one of the most liberal countries in the Gulf;
expatriates make up around 85 percent of the population. The constitution
provides for religious freedom on the condition that established customs, public
policy or public morals are not violated. The government restricts this freedom in
practice. Christians in the United Arab Emirates, who are mainly foreign workers,
are mostly persecuted by the government’s discriminatory attitude and society’s
hostile attitude towards Christianity, resulting sometimes in deportation. The
government is placing restrictions on the development of facilities for Christian
migrants. Persecution also comes from those community members who monitor
Christian migrants. This is a reality in the whole country, although smaller more
conservative Emirates are more restrictive than the larger ones.
Muslim Background Believers are under severe pressure by relatives, family and
Muslim society due to Islamic government, law and culture. All citizens are
defined as Muslims and the law denies Muslims the freedom to change religion
under penalty of the death. To avoid death, social stigma or other penalties,
converts may be pressured to return to Islam, to hide their faith or to travel to
another country where their conversion is allowed. There are very few local
believers among the Muslim population. Evangelism is prohibited, but non-
Muslim groups can worship freely in dedicated buildings or private homes.
The total number of points for the United Arab Emirates increased slightly from
37.5 to 38.5, which remarkably brings the country from position 34 to 37
because of considerable gains in points of the countries close to UAE on the
WWL. This year Open Doors gathered more information on the constitution and
national laws, which are more restrictive on religious freedom than previously
assumed. In general, religious freedom did not change much for Christians during
the current reporting period. Arrests, imprisonment and deportation can occur for
expatriate Christians who evangelize or distribute Christian literature openly, but
we did not receive reports of this. There were some reports of societal abuses or
discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice, and societal
pressures discouraged conversion from Islam to other religions. Christians in the
country notice many opportunities for Muslim—Christian dialogue. Though the
Arab Spring did not affect the UAE much, the latest developments in the Middle
East do lead the local people to question what good leadership is about.
Allegedly, this leads to opportunities for sharing the gospel.
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38. Ethiopia
Ethiopia went from position 43 to 38 in the WWL, reflecting a higher number
of incidents related to persecution. The structural picture remained the same,
although underlying dynamics are changing rapidly.
The engines of persecution are twofold: ecclesiastical arrogance and Islamic
extremism. In the past the main persecutor was the Ethiopian Orthodox Church
(EOC). The EOC persecuted the emerging Protestant churches, and also renewal
movements within their own ranks. Meanwhile the Islamists have come more
and more alongside as persecutors of Protestants as well as EOC members in
the areas where they are predominant. So, the persecutors are more found
within social groups than within government circles. For instance, no law exists
that would stop the local church to openly integrate new believers after
conversion However, villagers and families are often against it. So now and
then EOC and Islamic leaders “encourage” mobs to attack churches and
converts—their agendas are totally different but their “enemy” is common as is
their strategy.
EOC still is a source of persecution of Christians in Ethiopia. Their leaders are
feeling that the church is losing its historical dominance. They think Protestants
and Islamists are taking their members in an attempt to destroy the church and
the nation. For them, the very existence of the nation is deeply associated with
EOC itself. EOC members, unlike recent memories, are showing strong
commitment and devotion to their religion. Protestant believers and their
churches are targeted in diverse ways. The “hard core” group inside EOC is
making life hard to the renewal movements within EOC. It accuses them to be
secret agents of Protestants. Priests want to stop believers from evangelism. A
number of priests and other workers were kicked out of the church after the
group reported they are “reformationalists.”
Islamism is another source of persecution in the country. Muslims feel uneasy
to see their members being evangelized by Protestant churches and they want
to stop it. Above that, the unprecedented shift of Islamism in Ethiopia from
Sunni to Wahhabism is a negative development. Islamic Da’wa leaders and
preachers from Arab countries are believed to have promoted intolerance
against others and assertive attitudes.
Striking in the Ethiopian context is the use of false accusations. Almost all
imprisonments were a result of fabricated cases. Officials in the country seemed
to be aware of international pressure and they fiercely reject any claim of
human rights abuses. Every time believers went to jail countless excuses were
invented. Insult of other religions, illegal meeting, illegal construction, theft,
and threat to public peace were some of them. False witnesses were used and
the verdict given.
The tension between EOC and the Islamists has won government’s attention. A
“Forum of Religions Dialogue for Peace and Development” was formed under
the blessing of the Ministry of Federal Affairs. Leaders from EOC, Islamists and
Evangelicals are members of this Forum. Meanwhile some Church leaders are
reporting that the Forum is used to enforce “commonly agreed” restrictions
such as the issue of evangelization outside churches. For instance, in
Benishangul Gumuz State, believers are not allowed to discuss religion in public
gathering places, offices, markets, schools etc. Churches in a town in Oromia
State are told they can no longer hold mass gatherings in public places.
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(Oromia State is the place where many Islamist attacks have taken place.) In
other words, it seems renewal movements within EOC and Protestant
churches are squeezed between the EOC and Islamism.
Ethiopia is a country to keep an eye on. Protestant churches are the fastest
growing movement in the country. “Underground movements” both in EOC
and Islam dominated areas have been reported as making incredible progress
in their work. EOC and Islamism will continue to see them as a threat.
Besides, Islamism also targets mainstream EOC. Open Doors expects that in
the short term persecution of Christians, in the broad sense of the word
“Christian,” will increase sharply—the more so because extremist Islam in
Ethiopia is fuelled by external sources. The unresolved conflict in the eastern
part of the country is also attracting some extremist groups like Al Shabaab
from neighboring Somalia.
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39. Djibouti
Djibouti maintains the same score as last year and stays in 39th place on the
WWL 2012. Although Open Doors had limited access to information on the
country, it estimates the persecution situation basically has not changed. The
main persecution engine is Islamic extremism.
According to the July–December 2010 U.S. Department of State International
Religious Freedom Report: “The constitution and other laws and policies
protect religious freedom and, in practice, the government generally enforced
these protections.” Although Islam is the state religion, according to the IRF
report ,“The government imposed no sanctions on those who choose to ignore
Islamic teachings or to practice other faiths.” IRF’s conclusion on family issues
however negatively qualifies this impression. “The government allows civil
marriage only for non-Muslim foreign residents. Muslims are required to
marry in a religious ceremony. A non-Muslim man may marry a Muslim
woman only after converting to Islam." According to the family code,
"impediment to a marriage occurs when a Muslim woman marries a non-
Muslim." Due to limited information it is difficult to further qualify the stance
of the government towards Christians, especially Muslim Background
Believers, in the country. Incidental reports from preceding years on structural
persecution elements however distinguished between “registered expatriate
churches” and “local believers,” most of who are “secret believers.” Such
distinctions make it likely that government, too, is involved in infringing upon
the right of religious freedom.
The July–December 2010 International Religious Freedom Report stated, “There
were occasional reports of societal discrimination based on religious affiliation,
belief, or practice. Societal norms and customs discouraged proselytizing by
non-Muslims and conversion from Islam; non-Muslim religious groups generally
did not engage in public proselytizing.” For fear of discovery new believers do
often not disclose their new belief to their family and local community, and
remain “secret believers.”
The dynamics of persecution are typical for Islamic extremism as driver of
persecution—both government and social groups/society are involved in
protecting the religious status quo with Islam as state religion. It seems
however that family and local community are more active drivers of persecution
than government. Given the scarcity of direct sources of input for the reporting
period it is difficult to sensibly indicate how the situation might develop in the
future.
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40. Jordan
Jordan experienced a moderate ‘Arab Spring’. The government reacted to local protests
for political reform with large public sector pay rises and food and energy subsidies. So
far, this has worked well and the protests have been limited.
Known as one of the most Western-orientated countries in the Middle East, traditional
Christians experience a certain extent of religious freedom. According to the Jordanian
constitution ‘The State shall safeguard the free exercise of all forms of worship and
religious rites in accordance with the customs observed in the Kingdom, unless such is
inconsistent with public order or morality.’ Islam is the religion of the State and the
Jordanian legal system is based on sharia (Islamic law) and laws of European origin.
However, leaving Islam is prohibited and ‘public proselytism’ of
Muslims is against government policy.
In general, relations between Muslims and Christians were peaceful.
Nevertheless Muslims who become Christians still fall under jurisdiction
of sharia courts and generally maintain a low profile to avoid
harassment or interrogation. In the past, family members have filed
charges against them in Islamic law courts, leading to the loss of
custody of their children, annulment of their marriage contracts and
depriving them of other civil rights. They face discrimination and the
threat of mental and physical abuse by their families, government
officials, and at times community members. Security service personnel reportedly
questioned MBBs on their beliefs, threatened court and other actions, and promised
rewards for returning back to Islam, such as job opportunities. They also withheld
certificates of good behavior needed for job applications or to open a business and told
employers to dismiss them.
For a few years there were considerable tensions between the evangelical churches and
the traditional churches in the Hashemite Kingdom. These seem to have eased off mostly
but the difficulties between the various denominations have hardly been reduced. Most
new believers are from the nominal Christian community, but recently more and more
Muslims are coming to faith. Whereas the church as a whole is declining in numbers, the
evangelical church is experiencing encouraging growth, doubling from 1995 to 2010. As
a result the authorities are increasingly monitoring churches, and security officers in
civilian clothes are present outside churches of some Christian denominations. However
some church leaders said the presence of security officers was meant to protect them
following threats against Christian groups in the region.
The situation of religious freedom for Christians in Jordan has not changed dramatically
compared to last year. Like last year, the country has 33.5 points and holds position 40.
There have been no major incidents against Christians during the reporting period.
Especially MBBs were pressured by local authorities, mostly monitored and sometimes
detained. MBBs were also put under pressure by their families and some radical Islamic
groups.
In Jordan, Christians remain a community under relative pressure. The numbers of
Christians have been declining since the country’s independence especially due to lower
birth rates and high emigration rates. On the other hand, large numbers of Iraqi
Christians have entered the country—a development that is still continuing. There is also
a large number of Muslim refugees entering the country from Iraq, Palestinian Territories
and Syria, which together with the rise of politicized Islam put increasing pressure on
Christians, especially on evangelicals and MBBs.
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41. Cuba
Cuba is one of the few remaining communist regimes in the world. Some years ago, the
country’s aging leader, Fidel Castro, made a place for his brother Raúl in the government,
but the regime stayed essentially the same; desired changes did not take place. Cuba
continues to isolate itself from the rest of the world and function under totalitarian control.
Christians make up almost 57 percent of the population, and a majority of them are Roman
Catholics. The past years have seen great growth for Protestant Christians. Many religious
organizations reported a significant increase in membership as well as revival, especially
among the young. Most churches reported increased participation in religious instruction
for children because government schools no longer schedule competing activities on
Saturdays or Sundays.
The constitution provides for religious freedom, but the government restricts this in practice.
Churches must register, which is difficult. There are many unregistered house churches that
have no legal status and experience harassment from the authorities. The government
restricts the construction of new church buildings and permission is often hard to obtain.
Permission to print Christian literature locally is hard to obtain. Bibles, Bible study materials
and Sunday school materials are in extremely short supply. The growing numbers of
unregistered house churches have no access to these materials, as Bibles are distributed in
Cuba through official channels and to registered churches only.
The totalitarian regime allows no competitors of any kind. Religious groups complain about
widespread surveillance and infiltration by state security agents. Pastors and Christians are
sometimes pressured to stop evangelizing and to limit their activities to their own church
premises.
Persecution of Christians, more severe in the past, is slowly changing. While Christian
persecution in the past included beatings, imprisonment and sometimes murder, now it is
generally more subtle. It continues in the form of harassment, strict surveillance and
discrimination, including occasional imprisonment of leaders. All believers are monitored
and all church services are infiltrated by spies; Christians are threatened and suffer
discrimination in school and at work.
There were no reports of persons imprisoned or detained for specifically religious reasons.
According to the International Religious Freedom Report, a few religious groups reported
cases of members who alleged that the government targeted them for prosecution of
crimes they did not commit because of their religious activities. Several pastors and
Christians share stories about being put under scrutiny, pressured to stop evangelizing and
told to limit their activities to their own church premises. Many house churches are not
registered and therefore have no legal status whatsoever. In one area in particular, Christians
are put under more pressure than elsewhere in Cuba: the area of Varadero. It is an area
specifically meant for tourists. Only Cubans that work there are allowed to live there but
Christians are repeatedly told not to do anything “Christian.” It is specifically forbidden to
do anything for youth; it’s considered to be “infiltration of the wrong ideology,” according
to one pastor. The Cuban government is really keen on keeping the area clean and
comfortable for the thousands of tourists coming to Varadero.
On the WWL, Cuba remained ranked number 41. The situation of Christians remains
unchanged and will probably stay the same while the communist regime is in place; no
transition is expected soon. Many religious organizations reported a significant increase in
membership as well as revival, especially among the young. It’s a sign of hope.
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42. Belarus
Belarus is often considered the last surviving dictatorship in Europe. The country is ruled by
Alexander Lukashenko, an authoritarian who has been in power since 1994. His government
allows almost no room for any opposing group, especially political opposition. After the
2010 presidential election, human rights, including freedom of speech and freedom of
assembly, have repeatedly been violated.
Although the constitution provides for the equality of religions and denominations, the
Orthodox Church is the only officially recognized denomination (80-85% of all Christians in
Belarus), while the Catholic and Lutheran churches are merely tolerated. Church registration
in Belarus is difficult, if not impossible. In practice, it is forbidden to carry out any religious
activity without prior government recognition of the religious organization as a legal entity.
The Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations (2002) makes unregistered
religious activity a criminal offense and may result in a two-year term of imprisonment or
heavy court-imposed fines.
Religious communities do not have the right to develop their own media, to establish
religious educational institutions, to train religious personnel, nor to invite foreign priests to
satisfy religious needs of believers. Members of religious organizations do not have the right
to share their religious convictions or to carry out any religious activity (to preach, to
distribute literature, to hold public worship services, etc.), beyond the borders of the
location where the community is registered.
Protestant and Catholic denominations are restricted in their activity and monitored by the
secret police. Because the numbers of Evangelical and Pentecostal Christians are growing,
persecution is getting more intense for them.
Violent raids of unregistered churches occur frequently. In March 2010, twice a pastor was
fined more than a month's average wages for leading an unregistered church following a
raid on his church's worship service. In July 2010, a pastor was fined three times in one day
for sharing his faith in a local village.
Several leaders of the Belarusian Christian Democratic party have been harassed and even
imprisoned for long periods of time. Two of them were sentenced to labor camp, but were
later freed. One of the youth leaders of the party, Dzmitry Dashkevich, was kept in inhumane
conditions in prison and even tortured through deprivation of sleep, food and constant
psychological assault.
The very restrictive religious laws will continue to be used as an instrument of the
government to oppress religious minorities in the country. A change still is not in sight.
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43. Indonesia
The situation for Christians in Indonesia has deteriorated considerably.
Believers are starting to face more and more hostility. Though the national
authorities try to look neutral, in reality they are eager to win favor and
support from Muslim parties, often even extremist parties. Until 2010 more
than 50 regencies (a step lower than the provincial government) in 16 of the
33 provinces in Indonesia have passed sharia-inspired bylaws. Another source
documents 151 sharia-inspired bylaws introduced in 24 provinces during the
1999-2009 period. These regulate the citizens’ moral and religious life, e.g.
concerning prostitution, gambling, alcohol consumption, pornography,
Quran proficiency, and Muslim dress code.
The government’s changing attitude is clearly shown in the treatment of the
Indonesian Christian Church (GKI) Yasmin congregation in Bogor, West Java.
Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling in December 2010 to re-open the church,
the mayor has told Home Affairs Minister Gamawan Fauzi that the church
should not be built on a street with an Islamic name. Consequently, he has
sealed off the church and forced all meetings to cease. The authorities did
not enforce the Supreme Court’s judgment, thus depriving the believers of
their rights. Attacks against church buildings occurred regularly throughout
2010; in most cases the authorities did not investigate or charge those
responsible. For the first time in the country’s history, the Christian minority
faced an attack by a suicide bomber. On September 25, a 31-year-old Muslim
attacked the Bethel Injil Sepuluh Christian Church in Keputon, Solo, Java.
Twenty-seven people were wounded, and the attacker was killed. Had he
arrived a little earlier or chosen a different entrance, the casualty toll could
have been much higher. On September 26, police found another similar
bomb outside the Maranatha church in Ambon city, on the island of Ambon.
Several days before this took place, on September 11, Muslim and Christian
gangs in Ambon attacked each other, leaving three dead and more than a
dozen injured.
In the week leading up to Easter celebrations, police discovered five bombs
buried under a gas pipeline near a Catholic church in Serpong, near Jakarta.
The bombs were due to explode on Good Friday and were successfully
defused.
The Jakarta-based Setara Institute on peace and dialogue reported 99
incidents of violence and conflicts as of July 2011, a considerable rise
compared to the 99 cases reported in whole year 2010. Muslim extremist
groups continue to grow more and more hostile and violent towards
Christians and are experiencing no resistance from national or local
authorities. Muslim extremists have also found an ally in the blasphemy law,
which they use to legitimize their actions. Given such leniency, the future for
the Christian minority seems to be getting increasingly difficult. This has
caused the country to rise in the WWL ranking for 2012.
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44. Palestinian Territories
The Palestinian Basic Law—which functions as a temporary constitution—states that the official
religion is Islam and sharia (Islamic legislation) is a principle source of legislation. Officially, freedom
of belief and worship are guaranteed, provided public order or public morals are not violated.
The dynamics of Christian persecution in the Palestinian Territories are complex. It should be
stressed that the situation in Gaza is different from the West Bank, both territories being effectively
under different governments at present –though Hamas and Fatah are moving closer lately.
However, the Palestinian Authority, that rules over these territories—which are not recognized as an
independent nation—has an overall negative attitude towards Christians. Reports indicate that
pressure against Christians is increasing, especially with regard to incidents against Muslim-
background believers (MBB’s). The situation in general is comparable to the one of the previous
reporting period.
There are several groups of Christians in the Palestinian Territories: indigenous Christians (mostly
from Palestinian or Arab background) and MBBs. For Palestinian/Arab Christians it is important to
distinguish between political (because of their nationality) and religious persecution (because of
their faith). In general, the population in the Palestinian Territories is getting more and more
Islamic. The total number of Palestinian Christians has declined at an accelerating rate, largely due
to emigration. Increasing influence of Islam is one of the reasons for Christian emigration, but there
are other factors as well: economical reasons, the relevant ease for Christians to emigrate (they
have finances to do so and speak English, have contacts/family in the West) and restrictions from
the Israeli side. As such, Palestinian Christians find themselves persecuted from many different
sides.
Numbering 40,000, Christians are a minority in this land under Islam authority. Indigenous
Christians have the right to live and practice their religion, providing they don’t try to evangelize
the Muslims.
MBB’s are discriminated by community and family when their faith is known. The state is failing in
upholding and protecting the rights of individual Christians and in some cases they have to seek
safety in flight to a so called ‘safe house’ somewhere else in the area. In Gaza, there is also
oppression from radical Muslim groups that are active in the strip, which together with pressure
from the Hamas government continues to force Christians to leave. On the West Bank, although
there is no official persecution, Christians face some discrimination.
The total number of points for the Palestinian Territories increased compared to last year (31 versus
29.5), however the region continues to hold position 44. The main reason for this increase is the
report of a honor killing. For security reasons, we cannot publish more details about this murder.
Also, a Christian surgeon was attacked in February 2011 in Gaza. After the attack, in which he
fortunately was not wounded, he started receiving threats warning him to refrain from
“evangelistic activities.’’ However he says he does not share about his faith.
The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, asked the United Nations to recognize an independent
Palestinian State on September 23. The Security Council is now considering the request, but the
United States has already declared that it would veto the submission if it is brought to a vote.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Edurational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has
granted the Palestinians full membership on October 31, 2011. These developments might stretch
the relationship between Messianic believers and Palestinian Christians.
Expectations with regards to the future vary. Some observers do not expect any repercussions from
the revolts in the Arab world since the population in for instance Gaza is quite happy with Hamas.
Others suspect increasing influence from Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt will have its consequences
in the Palestinian Areas as well, especially resulting in increasing pressure for Christians.
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45. Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan is a member of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and
was its president in 2010. In order to make a good impression, the authorities in Kazakhstan
suspended a planned new law on religion which would have particularly harmed religious groups,
both Muslim and Christian, but of course also the smaller ones such as Jehovah Witnesses. Because
of this suspension the country dropped out of the WWL, ranking 52 last year. Observers from
several non-governmenta organizations (NGOs) warned that the country would pick up its planned
law once the government was out of the international focus again. These voices proved to be right
as in September 2011, two laws were passed by parliament, which further imposed restrictions on
religious rights, and which became effective in October 2011. Their titling show what they are
aiming at: “The Law on Religious Activity and Religious Associations,” the other one is an
accumulating law changing nine other laws touching upon religion. It is significant that the term
“freedom” does not appear in the titles, compared to its predecessor in 1992. No public
discussions were allowed and the government ignored all warnings from outside, including from
the OSCE. Regardless of this neglect of a befriended organization, the Council of Europe has invited
the country to become a full member of the “Commission for Democracy through Law”, better
known as “Venice Commission.” The laws seem to be aiming at curtailing extremist Islam (which
has off late begun to carry out attacks), but unregistered Christian churches come under attack,
too. Bigger churches, like the Russian Orthodox Church, seem to be less affected.
In connection with processing the new laws, the president stated: “We have to bring order to our
house. I believe you (the parliament) will approach this question seriously and we will all do what
needs to be done.” As in other Central Asian states, the laws require the re-registration of all
religious communities—an impossible hurdle for several smaller Christian communities. The system
with four levels of registration is very complicated; the process will be bureaucratic and
cumbersome. Unregistered religious activity is banned. Leading, participating in or financing
unregistered groups is a punishable offense. This has a great impact on those Christian groups that
refuse to register (like the Council of Baptist Churches), or those who do not pass the requirements
of the new registration procedure. The new amendments in the law will impose stiff punishment
on people who are involved in any way in such groups.
The different regulations are too numerous to list here. Every thinkable aspect of religious life will
be restricted: all materials face censorship, new places of worship need approval from local and
national government offices, founders of religious communities must be Kazakh citizens, and work
among the youth will definitely become more problematic.
The boost of 8.5 points in the WWL ranking was caused not only by the very harsh regulations of
the new laws. The government is determined to tackle all kinds of religion it considers as extremist,
including Christianity. Churches are thus likely to face serious consequences as they are a minority
and therefore easy targets. First signs coming in after the reporting period show that tough times
are ahead for believers: invited pastors are hindered to join conferences, first drafts outline the
upcoming censorship of religious literature and objects and Christian and other groups are asked
to report on a daily basis on their measures against religious extremism. If it follows this path, the
country will likely increase in ranking among the Central Asian countries on the WWL.
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46. Bahrain
“Unless all sides of the conflict agree to an inclusive dialogue in order to reach
meaningful reform, Bahrain is heading for prolonged and costly political
stalemate,” analyzes the International Crisis Group in its July 28, 2011, country
brief. Bahrain, where the majority Shiite population is demonstrating against the
Sunni government, is the scene of a hegemony competition between Saudi
Arabia, who sent its troops in support of the Bahraini government in order to
extinguish the spark of revolution coming from the Arab Spring, and Iran, whose
reaction up until now was limited to threatening rhetoric.
The Bahraini constitution declares that the religion of the State is Islam and that
‘the State guarantees the inviolability of worship, and the freedom to perform
religious rites and hold religious parades and meetings in accordance with the
customs observed in the country.’ Sharia (Islamic law) is a principal source for
legislation.
This mainly Shia-Islamic country is quite tolerant in general because of its
international position in banking and trade. There are two Christian bookshops
and several Christian hospitals. A considerable number of expatriate Christians
(mainly from South Asia) work and live in Bahrain and are relatively free to
practice their faith in private places of worship, but proselytizing Muslims is
illegal. While the number of compounds is limited, dozens of congregations must
use the same building. They are not allowed to advertise their services in Arabic,
but they can in English.
Traditionally, society is not tolerant towards converts from Islam to other religious
groups. Families and communities often banned them and sometimes subjected
converts to physical abuse. Muslim-ackground believers generally do not dare to
talk about their conversion and some of them believed it necessary to leave the
country permanently. Pressure comes mostly from family and community, to a
lesser extent from the state. Government persecution may have decreased in
general as they are preoccupied by remaining stability and crushing protests.
Bahrain holds position 46 in this year’s list, versus 45 last year. At the same time,
the total number of points increases slightly (from 28.5 to 31). The descent is
explained by the rise in points of other countries on the list. The reason for the
increase of points is that we received more information about the lack of freedom
for Muslims who want to change faith. Since the constitution declares Islam to be
the state religion and Islamic law as an important source of legislation, it implies
that Muslims are forbidden to change faith. MBBs are still considered Muslims by
the state and a legal challenge to this was not permitted.
In terms of religious freedom for Christians, Bahrain remains one of the most
liberal countries of the Arabian Peninsula.
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47. Colombia
Colombia is a country with multiple realities. Formally, Colombia is a modern democratic
country where the rule of law is established and religious freedom is guaranteed. However,
large areas of the country are under the control of criminal organizations, drug cartels,
revolutionaries and paramilitary groups. The two consecutive governments of President Álvaro
Uribe were quite successful in weakening the influence of these groups, but these efforts did
not succeed in completely neutralizing their activities, which continue to threaten national
security. Open Doors’ research has revealed that criminal organizations are specifically
targeting Christians, and for this reason Colombia enters the WWL again.
Persecution of Christians, particularly by criminal organizations, is generally motivated by a
combination of two elements. Organized crime views Christians who openly oppose their
activities as a threat, especially when Christians get involved in social programs or in politics.
In addition, they know the Christian faith is not compatible with their ideals. They fear
Christians will influence members of the community or even members of their own
organizations to oppose their activities.
In its 2010 report, the Christian NGO Justapaz counts 95 death threats or attempted murders,
71 forced displacements, 17 homicides, 2 disappearances and many cases of beatings,
torture, kidnapping, and forced recruitment that specifically targets Christians. According to
this information, criminal organizations are responsible for close to 90% of these incidents.
Our reports counted a total 5 cases of Christians that were martyred in 2011, but the real
numbers are probably much higher because of the ongoing armed conflict in the country. In
February, a pastor and two of his relatives were killed in the town of Dibulla, Guajira by
rightwing rebel groups in retaliation for the growing number of believers and to stop fasting
and prayer meetings. On March 5, Pastor George Ponton of the Evangelical Christian Church
of Colombia in the Cauca department was poisoned by indigenous leaders. Two missionaries
working for the World Missionary Movement Church were killed in September by illegal
militias.
In Colombia, probably the most persecution suffered by the rural Christian indigenous
population (no reliable numbers available) comes from the alliances that exist between
“pagan” (non-Christian) indigenous populations and paramilitary groups. These pagan
indigenous populations receive material support from paramilitary organizations to persecute
indigenous Christians. Paramilitary organizations (FARC and others) mislead these indigenous
groups, telling them that their Christian brothers are a threat to their culture and traditions.
In fact, the FARC uses indigenous populations as an advance army to terrorize the indigenous
Christians.
Indigenous territories in Colombia are protected by a national law that gives them autonomy.
Because of this autonomy, government security forces (police and military) are not allowed to
enter these territories. The indigenous territories are administrated by indigenous
organizations, but these are so weak that they are being infiltrated by guerrillas. Because
there is virtually no government presence nor enforcement of the rule of law, these territories
have become a safe haven for the guerrillas drug trafficking activities. This situation
contributes to the persecution of Christians.
In Colombia, the security situation continues to improve due to the capture of two FARC high
commanders in 2009 and another earlier this year. However, violence in Colombia is structural
and in areas where the government has lost control of public security, drug cartels and illegal
armed groups continue to operate with impunity. Christians will continue to be targeted for
persecution because of their presence as an alternative pillar of society and their witness
through their involvement in social and political activities.
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48. Kyrgyzstan
The decrease in rank this year doesn’t mean that the situation of the Christian minority has
improved. This is clearly shown by the fact that it even increased slightly in points. But as there
are three newcomers on the list overtaking it and the considerable deterioration of
persecution in Indonesia has to be kept in mind, Kyrgyzstan slid down the list.
The country lived through a troublesome political time as its old regime was toppled, giving
the interim government the difficult task of shaping future change. Though Kyrgyzstan is still
in a transitional period, the first truly democratic elections in the whole Central Asian region
were carried out at the end of October 2011. There were some irregularities but the elections
remained peaceful and brought a new president into office. Whether these changes will bring
the Christian minority relief is another question. The new president has already announced
that he will concentrate on uniting the country. Recalling the violent ethnic clashes with the
Uzbek community in the south of Kyrgyzstan back in 2010, without doubt this is important for
the country. But this idea is somewhat flawed as in other Asian and Central Asian states
policies focusing on unity and social harmony are used for harassing and harming minorities
including Christians. It is possible that Christians may come under similar pressure in
Kyrgyzstan.
The strict laws on religion introduced in 2009 are still in force. Conversion to Christianity is not
allowed which makes life for the small number of MBBs difficult. As in other Central Asian
countries, the laws distinguish between registered and unregistered communities, while
creating almost insurmountable hurdles for the Christian churches to get registration—bigger
churches like the Russian Orthodox Church are less affected. Literature and other materials are
censored and Christian education for children even for registered communities is limited.
Believers face being physically harmed and attacked and their meeting places and homes also
come under attack. MBBs receive pressure from family, friends and neighborhood. There are
also reports that Christians are monitored not only by the state, but also by Islamic clergy and
mahalla (“neighborhood”) committees.
Kyrgyzstan is at a turning-point in its history. The first free and fair elections have given the
opportunity to grant minorities legal standing, be they ethnic or religious minorities. However,
the public attitude in society points rather to ongoing discrimination, combined with disregard
for believers’ freedom by government.
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49. Bangladesh
In the World Watch List 2012, Bangladesh dropped three places although the
persecution situation remains essentially unchanged (even the points
remained the same).
On June 20, 2011, the government of Bangladesh decided to retain Islam as
the state religion. The government is proposing amendments to its
constitution, but says the proposed changes won't affect the legal system.
Inheritance and other family laws are already based on religion. The new
proposals seek to restore certain aspects of secularism, but for the Christian
minority, little change is expected.
In general, believers have freedom to live according to their faith, but they
have to be careful, particularly when including Muslims who have converted
to the Christian faith. Local authorities and the Muslim majority may disturb
church meetings or put believers under pressure. There are also reports of
Christians being physically harmed and homes, or meeting places, attacked.
On the other hand, believers who stood trial in August were exonerated by
the court; they had been accused of “hurting religious sensibility” while
organizing a health camp. Another believer was also exonerated for
distributing Christian literature near a major Muslim gathering in March.
Though the hostile attitude of family, society and government is not so
obvious as in other Muslim countries and the influence of extremist Islam is
low-profile, the outlook for the Christian minority is mixed.
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50. Malaysia
Malaysia increased considerably with 4.5 points, making it again on this
year’s World Watch List. Conversion is only allowed for non-Malay citizens.
For three quarters of society, who are Malay, conversion is therefore illegal. In
five states, it is a criminal offense which can be punished by a fine or even a
jail term. The growing hostility towards believers is probably shown best by
the following two events: Islamic authorities unlawfully entered a church on
August 3, 2011 and harassed guests at a community dinner. At least 20
officers from the central Selangor state’s Islamic Affairs Department and
police entered a Methodist church’s hall without a warrant and took
photographs and videos of a dinner attended by more than 100 people.
According to a statement distributed by Malaysia’s main church
confederation, the officers claimed to have received an unspecified complaint
and recorded details of several Muslims at the dinner. Malaysian law restricts
conversion of Malay Muslims to other religions. This incident resulted in
rumors about a Christian plan to convert the whole country. This was
debated publically and resulted in a rally of 5,000 demonstrators against the
Christian minority. Although this number was far less than the organizers had
expected, the youth organizations of several parties represented in
parliament took part in the demonstrations.
The second event showing the changed attitude towards Christians was the
Prime Minister’s announcement on September 16, 2011 that there was to be
a “comprehensive review” of the Publications and Printing Presses Act.
Shortly afterwards, the Malaysian government announced that Malay-
language Bibles could be printed locally. Idris Jala of the Prime Minister’s
Department promised that there would be no restrictions on Malay-language
Bibles in Sabah and Sarawak states on Borneo. Jala however cautioned that
the books that were imported or printed in the West Coast (Peninsular
Malaysia) must carry the words “Christian publication” and bear the sign of
the cross on its front cover. The statement was seen as a government
compromise to soothe the anger of the Christian community over seized
shipments of Christian literature. This all goes to show that freedom for the
Christian minority is deteriorating. This is also supported by the fact that
there have been more reports of MBBs facing arrests and physical assaults.
All these incidents show that Malay believers face increasing hostility by
government and Islamic fundamentalists while established churches are
under threat.
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Islamic Extremism
the Main Persecutor of
Christians in 2011
The 2012 Open Doors World Watch List (WWL) has a familiar look to it, with
North Korea topping the List for the tenth time in succession as the country
where Christians face the severest persecution. Islamic majority countries are
represented most heavily on the list, however, providing nine of the top ten,
and thirty-eight out of the top fifty. Afghanistan (2), Saudi Arabia (3),
Somalia (4), Iran (5), and the Maldives (6) form a block where indigenous
Christians have almost no freedom to believe at all. For the first time Pakistan
(10) entered the top ten after a tumultuous year when the highest ranking
Christian in the land, Cabinet Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, was assassinated on
March 2nd, 2011 for his attempts to change the blasphemy law. The rest of
the top ten is comprised of Iraq (9), Yemen (8) and Uzbekistan (7)—the
central Asian republic that fines, raids, and jails unregistered Christians.
The largest risers on the 2012 WWL are three countries—Nigeria (13), up
from 23, Egypt (15) up from 19, and Sudan (16), up from 35. In all three
cases, increased Islamic extremism is the culprit. Nigeria continues to be the
country where the worst atrocities in terms of loss of life occur, with over 300
Christians losing their lives this year, though the true number is thought to be
far higher. Since 2009 over fifty churches and ten pastors have been killed by
an extreme Islamic group called Boko Haram, literally translated as “western
learning is forbidden.” This group became increasingly more violent across
the reporting period. After the election of a Christian President in April,
extremists went on the rampage and slaughtered 170 Christians. Some of
the states in northern Nigeria have adopted sharia law in recent years which
causes greater tension with the local Christians, as they now feel they have a
second class status.
Two countries re-entered the recent WWL—Kazakhstan (45), and Colombia
(47). The huge central Asian republic elevated itself into the WWL thanks
significantly to the passage of an invasive and restrictive religion law, which
requires the re-registration of all religious communities, and will virtually
make youth work illegal and put all religious acts under the eyes of the
government. Unfortunately, Kazakhstan is merely following the path already
trod by its central Asian neighbours. Colombia was virtually a permanent
member of the WWL previously, particularly with the left wing insurgency
movements such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), or
the National Libveration Army (ELN), as well as paramilitary groups targeting
Christian pastors. These movements have branched into narco-trafficking,
and Christian leaders that will not cooperate in the drug trade are targeted
for assassination. Five were killed this year, and it is thought the number
could be as high as twenty.
Despite or perhaps because of these rising trends, the Church of Jesus Christ
in most of the world overcomes. As a pastor in a Gulf state confided, “When
we suffer, we bring a credibility to the gospel that cannot be ignored,
because we show that Christ is worth it, and that is the secret of growth
under persecution.”
COPYRIGHT © 2012 OPEN DOORS INTERNATIONAL
Serving persecuted Christians worldwide
OpenDoorsUSA.org





NoahTheNephilim 
NoahTheNephilim ha pubblicato un commento 
1 secondo fa
Somalia's Christians plead for prayers during Ramadan According to The Christian Post, Somalia's underground Christian community is requesting prayer. You can read their report below: Somalia's underground Christian community is asking fellow believers worldwide to pray for their safety during Islam's holy month of Ramadan. The tiny Christian population is regularly persecuted by Islamic extremists. They are requesting that fellow Christians pray they can live in peace with their Muslim neighbors. Ramadan began Aug. 11 and ends on Sept. 9. "We are called criminal and apostate. What is our crime? We are Christians! We suffer because of what we believe," said a Somali Christian, whose name is withheld for security reasons, to Open Doors USA.




NoahTheNephilim 
NoahTheNephilim ha pubblicato un commento 
1 secondo fa
Saudi Arabia: the little Satan, ally, of the great Satan: U.S.. for the torture and denial of any human right! Abuse of the military on Yemeni extremists: bogus charges: to hide the violation of freedom of religion! [most criminal country] worst, A study on excessive energy consumption in Saudi Arabia, queen of oil exports: domestic consumption of energy is so monstrous that: before 2040: the country could no longer be able to export oil: gas, the only sources of wealth of this terrorist country, Salafi and parasite (of oil products of the oil) Speaker of Sharia and Islamic terrorism: of, Al Qaeda in the world, to slaughter the innocent Christian martyrs



  • NoahTheNephilim 
    NoahTheNephilim ha pubblicato un commento 
    1 secondo fa
    COPYRIGHT ©2012 OPEN DOORS INTERNATIONAL, the 50 countries the worst criminal. most criminal country. 45 Serving persecuted Christians worldwide: OpenDoorsUSA . org 2012: January Table of Contents World Watch List 2012 Countries North Korea Afghanistan Saudi Arabia Somalia Iran Maldives Uzbekistan Yemen Iraq Pakistan Eritrea Laos Northern Nigeria Mauritania Egypt Sudan Bhutan Turkmenistan Vietnam Chechnya China Qatar Algeria Comoros Azerbaijan Libya Oman Brunei Morocco Kuwait Turkey India Burma/Myanmar Tajikistan Tunisia Syria United Arab Emirates Ethiopia Djibouti Jordan Cuba Belarus Indonesia Palestinian Territories Kazakhstan Bahrain Colombia Kyrgyzstan Bangladesh Malaysia The Main Persecutor of Christians
  • NoahTheNephilim 
    NoahTheNephilim ha pubblicato un commento 
    3 minuti fa
    [most criminal country] Serving persecuted Christians worldwide OpenDoorsUSA 18 TURKMENISTAN 15 19 VIETNAM 18 20 CHECHNYA 20 21 CHINA 16 22 QATAR 17 23 ALGERIA 22 24 COMOROS 21 25 AZERBAIJAN 24 26 LIBYA 25 27 OMAN 26 28 BRUNEI 29 29 MOROCCO 31 30 KUWAIT 28 31 TURKEY 30 32 INDIA 32 33 BURMA / MYANMAR 27 34 TAJIKISTAN 33 SEVERE PERSECUTION: OPPRESSION SEVERE LIMITATIONS: SOME LIMITATIONS SOME PROBLEMS: 35 TUNISIA 37 36 SYRIA 38 The World Watch List represents: 37 UNITED ARAB EMIRATES 34 38 ETHIOPIA 43 39 DJIBOUTI 39 40 JORDAN 40 where persecution 41 CUBA 41 of Christians is 42 BELARUS 42 43 INDONESIA 48 44 PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES 44 45 KAZAKHSTAN 46 BAHRAIN 47 COLOMBIA 48 KYRGYZSTAN 46 49 BANGLADESH 47 50 MALAYSIA 50
  • NoahTheNephilim 
    NoahTheNephilim ha pubblicato un commento 
    4 minuti fa
    [most criminal country] Serving persecuted Christians worldwide OpenDoorsUSA . org 2012, January WWL Report, January 2012 R: RANK COUNTRY RANKING 2011 1 NORTH KOREA 1 2 AFGHANISTAN 3 3 SAUDI ARABIA 4 4 SOMALIA 5 5 IRAN 2 6 MALDIVES 6 7 UZBEKISTAN 9 8 YEMEN 7 9 IRAQ 8 10 PAKISTAN 11 11 ERITREA 12 12 LAOS 10 13 NORTHERN NIGERIA 23 14 MAURITANIA 13 15 EGYPT 19 16 SUDAN 35 17 BHUTAN 14
  • NoahTheNephilim 
    NoahTheNephilim ha pubblicato un commento 
    5 minuti fa
    [most criminal country] When these Christians are strengthened in the Lord, they begin to demonstrate God's forgiveness and reach out in love, even to their oppressors. About the List. The World Watch List (WWL) is a ranking of 50 countries where persecution of Christians for religious reasons is worst. First of all, the list covers persecution of Christians of all denominations in the entire country. The focus is on persecution for their faith, not persecution for political, economic, social, ethnic or accidental reasons. The witness of persecuted, Christians has a unique power to reach a new generation of lives and communities that would otherwise never be open to the gospel but they cannot do it alone. COPYRIGHT ©2012 OPEN DOORS INTERNATIONAL
  • NoahTheNephilim 
    NoahTheNephilim ha pubblicato un commento 
    6 minuti fa
    [most criminal country] 2012: January: Open Doors works with the world's most oppressive countries, strengthening Christians to stand strong in the face of persecution and equipping them to shine Christ's light in these dark places. The greatest challenge to Christians living under tyranny and oppression is isolation -- from God's Word and from the body of Christ. Where other Christian organizations cannot enter or have been forced to flee by oppressive governments or cultures, Open Doors can often be found -- supplying Bibles, training Christian leaders, developing Christian communities and ensuring prayer, presence and advocacy for these suffering believers.

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  • NoahTheNephilim 
    NoahTheNephilim ha pubblicato un commento 
    1 secondo fa
    @ YHWH my holy God, etc. .. -> Jesus is Lord! Jesus is the King of Glory ! Jesus is the King of Kings! This is a very beautiful song . This is love for Jesus. All Glory to Jesus Christ . UniusRei3 posted a comment 1 hour ago [You can not afford , That, this may one day become a trauma for you] Yes Jesus is God, the son of the living God, worthy to be Praised: " I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end who is ... and who was and who is to come, the Almighty "(Rev 1.8). "Surely I am coming quickly" Amen. Even I know Jesus as Lord ! (Rev 22, 20) . Jesus Christ is God, He is the Son of God. He is part of the holy trinity. God the Father , God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit! Jesus was not just man, He was God in human form. (Ie ONLY ONE GOD)
  • NoahTheNephilim 
    NoahTheNephilim ha pubblicato un commento 
    40 secondi fa
    @ YHWH my holy God, etc. .. -> Jesus is Lord! Jesus is the King of Glory! Jesus is the King of Kings! This is a very beautiful song. This is love for Jesus. All Glory to Jesus Christ. UniusRei3 posted a comment 1 hour ago [ you can not afford, That, this may one day become a trauma for you ] John from 1.29 to 34. If you believe in God, not trying to debate this issue but very curious as to what God are you referring to? Also I do not Understand how Christianity is a religion of occupation. The term " christian" means-Christ-like. Christians strive to be Christ-like. Romans 9,5 say Jesus is God's, Hebrews1 says the angels praise him! and us "humans" are not going to? Even if you do not wan't : to the word of God: says you will have: to one day bow to your knees before Jesus
  • NoahTheNephilim 
    NoahTheNephilim ha pubblicato un commento 
    2 minuti fa
    WOWfunning --- sorry no! bad video: never more! @CIA IMF synnek1 kkk 666 -- everyone knows that I am not paid by anyone! Today, you have already given: the sad spectacle of being mentally unbalanced, and yet I have not done anything against you, yet!


  • UniusRei3 
    UniusRei3 ha pubblicato un commento 
    1 ora fa
    so, not having: my mentally structured categories! I am forced to process the data, all the moral motives of virtue, that is, all the motives of the moral: always: in a rational way: through my personal relationship with God! But, God is a person and he wants a personal relationship with everyone here because it is essential, to build the Jewish temple! because its structure is a mirror to human nature (spirit, soul and body)
  • UniusRei3 
    UniusRei3 ha pubblicato un commento 
    1 ora fa
    Synnek1 --- space, time, culture, fashions, trends, ideologies: Faiths: Identity: Nationality: races? all these things, do not make me a prisoner! because: I am a man without categories structured mental! here's why: I'm invincible! spazio; tempo; culture; mode; tendenze; ideologie: religioni: identità: nazionalità: razze? tutte queste cose, non fanno di me un prigioniero! perché: io sono un uomo senza categorie mentali strutturate! ecco perché: io sono invincibile!
  • UniusRei3 
    UniusRei3 ha pubblicato un commento 
    1 ora fa
    Synnek1 [(Satanism institutional THE CANNIBAL: THE MASONIC SYSTEM OF BANKing seigniorage: ie; ) Masonic dictatorial regime: for the violation of all the most important amendments of the Constitution: is why, since losing monetary sovereignty: mean turning: all the political prostitutes)] has posted a comment: 6 hours ago: THE BIGGEST THREAT = The goddamned ------------> UNIUSREI WAKE-UP! Sheeple! - ANSWER -> LOL. @ jews -> sorry, lol. ABOUT, YOU HELD ME: HOW THE king of the Jews: for Have Been Able to buy: my silence about the announcement of the Gospel? lol. honestly, I Have not Decided, yet: if, you do or not: the experience of 3 ° to War World, and nuclear, and revolutions and civil wars: all his related: that: the poor will be forced to do: Against: the richest, in all States!
  • UniusRei3 
    UniusRei3 ha pubblicato un commento 
    1 ora fa
    MarlaMarleen -- synnek1 knows very well that I do not hate anybody! and that I would not want to hurt anyone! He has the assurance of my love: because we are on this page from two years! however, is quite pathetic their obstinacy: to do the criminals Satanists, and criminal Freemasons, but, so I will see: that, extent to which: may be reached: their resistance to pain! synnek1 sa molto bene: che io non odio nessuno! e che io non vorrei fare del male a nessuno! lui ha la certezza del mio amore: perché noi siamo su questa pagina da due anni! tuttavia, è alquanto patetica la loro ostinazione: di rimanere i criminali massoni e i criminali satanisti: ma io vedrò : fino a che punto: potrà giungere: la loro resistenza al dolore!
  • UniusRei3 
    UniusRei3 ha pubblicato un commento 
    1 ora fa
    UniusRei3 has published a comment 1 week. ago [the stench of sulfur ] youtube IMF 666 CIA 322: Synnek1 ( : CIA is youtube master IMF) has published a comment: 1 hour ago : " WE WILL NEVER FORGET motherfucker! " - Answer -> Yes, I KNOW , " YOU ARE AN LEGION of demons " of failed! Because if you: (Satanists freemasonry) Were something of true value ? you would have Conquered the plane , Already too long ago! but, that's the truth: "You are the eternal losers ! " what I feel ? is just a terrible stench of dead bodies and burnt human flesh : because only for your: big ass broken : They may think : that the favor of Satan can be durable ! and now ? You have this whole page to show once again on: when you're an asshole ! YOUTUBE SHIT , DIRTY imf 666 - YOU ARE VULGAR ? It is BECAUSE YOU ARE LOSING ! you're a loser Because You're gross ! hallelujah