01/16/2019 China (International Christian Concern) – Christian persecution watchdog Open Doors released its annual World Watch List on Wednesday, calling Asia “the new hotbed of persecution for Christians,” with an estimated 139 million people – or one in three – found to live under “high persecution.”
In the past five years, there has been a sharp increase in the persecution of Christians in Asia, especially with a dramatic spike in 2018, driven by the likes of a rise in Hindu ultra-nationalism in India, radical Islamism in Indonesia and tougher religious regulations in China, the report noted.
North Korea continues to top the List for the 18th year in a row, with Pakistan and India marked as having “extreme” levels of Christian persecution, and the Maldives, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam rounding out Asian countries in the top 20.
Two countries in the top 30, China and Indonesia, were both singled out for a drastic deterioration in the treatment of Christians.
According to Open Doors, more than 20 million Christians experienced persecution last year in China, and it forecasts that number to increase to 50 million in 2019. The country’s revised Religious Affairs Regulations came into effect last year, encouraged an array of crackdowns and raids, and a wave of church closures such as that of Beijing’s Zion Church in September.
“Under Xi Jinping, the suppression of Christian churches and other religious organizations is being carried out nationwide with unprecedented determination,” said Professor Yang Fenggang at Purdue University in response to South China Morning Post’s inquiry.
With respect to Indonesia’s worsening Christian persecution, Papang Hidayat, an analyst for Amnesty International in Indonesia believes that persecution had been politicized. “I would not say the Christians [are] being ‘persecuted’ because of their belief in the country,” he said. “It is more that politicians use religious identity as their arsenal for their political campaigns. In many districts and some provinces, it is the logic of majority against minority, although in most cases it is Muslims being the majority.”
He did however admit to South China Morning Post that the situation against religious minorities is worsening.