The 15 Worst Places to be a Christian in 2016

Open Doors USA, a non-profit organization dedicated to serving persecuted Christians, recently released its list of the 50 worst countries on Earth for Christians in 2016. The worst persecution came from two threats: Islamic extremism in Africa and the Middle East, and nationalism in East Asian countries such as North Korea and India.

While Islamic extremism is the dominant driver of persecution, responsible for conflict and oppression in 35 of the 50 countries, ethnic nationalism in Asian countries focuses on persecuting minorities, fueled by religious nationalism and government insecurity. As the report noted, "it is common—and easy—for tottering governments to gain quick support by scapegoating Christians."

While the list includes all of the countries involved in President Donald Trump's controversial immigration executive order, there are many countries besides.

Below is a list of the 15 worst places to be a Christian, from the least oppressive to the most.

15. India.

Image via Shutterstock, the Taj Mahal. Image via Shutterstock, the Taj Mahal.

Since May 2014, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has governed India, imposing a version of radical Hinduism more extreme than previously. Christians in this East Asian country are regularly attacked for their faith, with ever increasing levels of impunity. There are an estimated 63.9 million Christians in this country of 1.3 billion people, a tiny 4.76 percent of the population.

Converts from Hinduism to Christianity face the brunt of persecution, according to Open Doors. They are constantly pressured to return to their old beliefs, and often physically assaulted and even killed. After converts, Protestant communities face intense persecution, due to their emphasis on conversions.

14. Saudi Arabia.

Image via Shutterstock, an aerial photo of Saudi Arabia. Image via Shutterstock, an aerial photo of Saudi Arabia.

Islamic oppression rules in the monarchy of Saudi Arabia — it is, after all, the seat of the two most important Islamic cities, Mecca and Medina. Citizens are expected to be Muslims, but many have secretly converted to Christianity. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world without any church buildings, because both public and private life are defined by Islam. Nevertheless, Open Doors estimated that there are 1.4 million Christians in a population of 32.7 million, 4.2 percent of the population.

Migrant Christians from low-income countries suffer the worst, as they are attacked for their ethnicity and economic status as well. Nevertheless, all converts to Christianity in Saudi Arabia risk fierce persecution from family, society, and government.

13. Maldives.

Image via Shutterstock, a plane descending on the Maldives islands. Image via Shutterstock, a plane descending on the Maldives islands.

Interestingly, the Maldives, world famous as a vacation destination, is also notorious for the persecution of Christians. A strict form of Islam dominates the country both politically and culturally, and freedom of religion is highly restricted. The "protection of religion" in the country's constitution is purely understood to mean the protection of Islam, and every Maldivian must be Muslim. There are merely a few thousand Christians in this country of 376,000 people.

Christians from other countries are closely monitored and have meeting restrictions, while converts from Islam bear the worst persecution. These converts are not officially recognized as existing and are cut off from any contact with expatriate churches.