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Report Shows It's Increasingly Dangerous To Be A Christian In Many Countries


To be a Christian in certain countries can be dangerous. That's the conclusion from a group that tracks Christian persecution around the world. NPR's Tom Gjelten says some of these countries are close allies of the U.S.

TOM GJELTEN, BYLINE: Among the 50 countries on this watch list are ones you'd expect. North Korea is the worst place to be a Christian. Afghanistan is a close second. Most are countries where Islamist radicals target non-Muslims. The list was prepared by Open Doors, a faith-based group that serves beleaguered Christians abroad. David Curry, the group's CEO, says persecution in Muslim countries has gotten worse over the past year.


DAVID CURRY: Nine of the top 10 on the World Watch List this year and the massive majority on the top 50 have the driver of Islamic extremism. This isn't to taint all of Islam, but we have to be clear that there is an Islamic extremist element which must be addressed.

GJELTEN: What's notable is where extremism is growing. Turkey, whose autocratic leader President Trump has cheered, is among the half-dozen countries where Christian persecution has increased the most. Egypt and India are two more U.S. allies where conditions have rapidly deteriorated. In India, it's not Islamist extremism but Hindu nationalism that's a problem. Curry opened his presentation this week with the story of a nun in India who was raped by Hindu extremists only to have evidence of the attack destroyed and the attackers acquitted.


CURRY: That's what justice is like in India today.

GJELTEN: Trump counts Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a friend, but Curry holds Modi personally responsible for the growing anti-Christian sentiment in India. He suggests the United States could use economic leverage to support Christians in India, a country, he points out, with which the United States has massive commerce


CURRY: And yet they're number 11 on the World Watch List. Twenty-two languages, 720 dialects in India, yet Modi wants to have one religion.

GJELTEN: It's not only Christians who are targeted in India of course. Hindu nationalists there have repeatedly attacked the Muslim minority. Curry says his organization's country report card offers a to-do list for where governments should focus their human rights interventions. Tom Gjelten, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROB CROSS' "WE LEARN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Gjelten reports on religion, faith, and belief for NPR News, a beat that encompasses such areas as the changing religious landscape in America, the formation of personal identity, the role of religion in politics, and conflict arising from religious differences. His reporting draws on his many years covering national and international news from posts in Washington and around the world.