Open Doors USA, an organization that monitors and exposes Christian persecution around the globe, has released its “2014 World Watch List” — a report that highlights and ranks the worst nations in the world to be a Christian.

Topping the list this year are countries known for brutal government crackdowns or for the uncontrolled and murderous tactics of extremist groups within their borders.

The absolute worst places to be a Christian this year are: North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The below graphic shows the top 10 most brutal countries for believers; the 2013 results are also present to the right, so you can see where these nations placed last year (for a full explanation on the 2013 results, read our previous coverage):

Open Doors USA Ranks The 10 Absolute Worst Places in the World to Be a Christian

Credit: Open Doors USA

Dr. David Curry, CEO and president of Open Doors USA, told TheBlaze Tuesday that his organization is hoping the report will help draw attention to the fact that Christians, despite being in the majority in the U.S., are actually the largest persecuted religious minority in the world.

“We’re going to motivate the U.S. to pay attention to this issue as a critical component of creating free societies and to support Christians wherever they may be in the world,” he said.

In ranking each country on the list, Curry said his team looked at violence, government pressures and other related indicators. These issues are collectively assessed and countries are rated on a point system, which subsequently led to the current rankings.

“Not every circumstance is the same. For example, in North Korea, you have a quasi-Stalinist government that is the most difficult place to call yourself a Christian on the planet — and has been for the last 12 years,” he noted.

But while North Korea’s government is the real culprit, in places like Iraq, “roving extremist groups” are waging attacks against Christians, while government officials are seemingly powerless to stop the carnage, he explained.

Curry also charged that the Obama administration has essentially declined to make the protection of religious minorities a priority, linking a failure to uphold religious freedom in foreign nations with the destabilization of some governments.

“There are many instances where the vacuum of leadership and spokesman-ship has created a real problem,” said the human rights leader. “I would say that every significant data point on this year’s ’2014 Watch List’ is worse — and I think a factor in it is a lack of leadership from Western governments including … the U.S. in terms of religious freedom.”

Open Doors USA Ranks The 10 Absolute Worst Places in the World to Be a Christian

An interactive map showing the concentration of Christian persecution (Credit: Open Doors USA)

Curry is hopeful that the report will show the U.S. government the importance that freedom of religion has to any free and civilized society.

Citing some of the surprises in this year’s report, he noted that Columbia — a nation that is generally considered overtly Christian — actually ticked up on the list from the 46th spot in 2013 to the 25th in 2014. This is due to violence against pastors and churches speaking out against the drug cartels.

Another surprise on the list was the Central African Republic, which wasn’t in the top 50 last year, but is ranked 16th this year. TheBlaze reported last month about a Bible translator who was shot and killed there, as Christians are being routinely targeted by mainly Islamic extremists.

See an interactive map and view the top 50 countries where Christians are the most persecuted in the world here.

Featured image via Shutterstock.com

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