North Korea still top Christian persecutor worldwide in 2017

North Korea has once again topped the list of the worst persecutors of Christians in the world for the year 2017, according to international persecution charity Open Doors.

(REUTERS / KCNA)North Korean leader Kim Jong Un salutes during a visit to the Ministry of the People's Armed Forces on the occasion of the new year, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on January 10, 2016.

The country that has clinched the top spot on the Open Doors 2017 World Watch List is still North Korea, while Somalia has left its seventh place to climb up to the second. The campaign for nationalism in Asia and the rampant Islamic extremism in Africa have driven the rise of Christian persecution in the world, Christian Today notes.

"A stand-out trend is that religious nationalism is driving the Asian countries up the list," said Dr. Ron Boyd-MacMillan, the director for strategic research at Open Doors, according to WorldWatchMonitor"It's a long-term trend, it's been gathering pace since the 1990s when nobody bothered to notice it. But this year, I think it's really come into its own."

The U.S. Treasury Department has recently blacklisted seven senior North Korean officials because of the incidents of human rights abuses and censorship in the reclusive nation. Office of Foreign Assets Control director John Smith said they are aiming for the exposure of the people behind these abuses, Reuters reports.

Dr. Boyd-MacMillan also said the trend of religious nationalism is most evident in India. He said there are many reported incidents of religiously motivated violence targeting Christians in the country.

"It is most visible in India; India is at its highest position on the World Watch List ever," Boyd-MacMillan added in the same WorldWatchMonitor report. "The Hindu extremists are really in power, and a mob can do what they like in India, and it's a large Church so there are a lot of incidents."

Other countries included in the Open Doors 2017 World Watch List are Somalia (2), Afghanistan (3), Pakistan (4), Sudan (5), Syria (6), Iraq (7), and Iran (8). Libya, formerly at No. 10, has been displaced by Yemen and is now at the 11th spot. 

Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Bhutan have all climbed up from their previous places on the list of 50 countries where Christians are most persecuted. Sri Lanka has joined the list, taking the 45th place, while Nepal failed to make it to the list despite the worsening situation of believers there.