North Korea tops Open Doors' 2018 World Watch List of worst countries for Christians

North Korea has once again ranked first in the 2018 World Watch List of the worst countries for Christians that was compiled by persecution watchdog Open Doors. It is the country's 16th time to hit the top spot on the list.

(REUTERS / Kim Hong-Ji)A North Korean flag flutters on top of a tower at the propaganda village of Gijungdong in North Korea, in this picture taken near the truce village of Panmunjom, South Korea. July 19, 2017.

In the 26 years that Open Doors has been publishing its annual World Watch List, only Saudi Arabia and Somalia have made it to the top, aside from North Korea. The organization has warned Christians in Southeast Asia that the region will be the "next emerging perception hotbed" of persecution, The Express detailed.

"North Korea remains the most dangerous place in the world to be a Christian. Believers are forced to worship in secret – if they are discovered they are taken to labour camps," Open Doors said in its latest report.

It added: "An estimated 70,000 Christians are believed to be in these camps. Last year, North Korea saw a further increase in the threat to Christians – the North Korean regime has been monitoring the border with China closely and raiding safe houses where Christian converts have sought refuge."

Speaking to Fox News in an interview, Open Doors USA's CEO David Curry highlighted the sharp rise in violence targeting Christian women in various parts of the world and said extremists were increasingly using this tactic. He emphasized the need to "raise the flag" because these incidents happen all the time.

The other countries that have made it to the top 10 of this year's Open Doors' list are Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq,  Libya, Pakistan,  Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. Egypt, which ranked 17th, is notably rising fast on the list as the number of violent and deadly attacks targeting its Christian community increases.

Turkey has been ranked 31st on the list after civil rights crackdowns contributed to the increase of its persecution points. Africa, on the other hand, was also highlighted because of the rising threat of Islamic extremists and extreme violence against Christians in Nigeria.