NICK EICHER, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: World Tour with senior editor Mindy Belz.
MINDY BELZ, SENIOR EDITOR: World Watch List—We start today in Washington, where Open Doors released its annual list of countries where it’s most dangerous to be a Christian.
CURRY: This year our study shows, again, a dramatic rise in the persecution of Christians around the world, in every region of the world.
That’s Open Doors CEO David Curry. According to the 2019 World Watch List, 1 in 9 Christians across 73 countries face severe persecution. That’s 15 more countries than a year ago when Open Doors found 1 in 12 believers faced persecution.
Curry noted repressive governments are increasingly using technology to violate the privacy and sanctity of churches, especially in China.
CURRY: They are using facial recognition and technology in churches to track, restrict, and punish Christians and others who want to worship freely. Imagine that!
North Korea again tops the list of most dangerous countries for Christians, with significant upticks in persecution in China, Nigeria, India, and Russia.
Venezuela protests—Next we go to Venezuela, where protesters plan to take to the streets today amid growing calls for President Nicolas Maduro to step down.
AUDIO: [Sound from protests, police firing]
Security forces fired tear gas at protesters on Monday after riots broke out in a poor neighborhood near the presidential palace in Caracas. That followed the arrest of 27 national guardsmen who stole weapons from a police station and tried to stage an uprising.
AUDIO: [Guardsman speaking in Spanish]
In videos posted online, the guardsmen urged Venezuelans to support their rebellion against Maduro’s government.
The newly seated president of Venezuela’s opposition-led congress has also called on the military to abandon Maduro and join today’s street protests.
AUDIO: [Sound from rally, Guadio comments in Spanish]
Opposition leader Juan Guaido called for a national uprising and a transitional government after lawmakers formally declared Maduro a “usurper.” But on Monday, the nation’s Supreme Court overturned that vote. The U.S. State Department issued a statement earlier this month supporting Guaido and the constitutional role of the National Assembly.
Unrest in Zimbabwe—Next we go to Africa, where Zimbabwe’s president condemned violence against protesters. President Emmerson Mnangagwa also called for talks among all political parties to end the unrest.
AUDIO: [Sound of protests]
Protests began last week after the government more than doubled gas prices in a bid to cut demand.
According to a human rights group, government forces shot at least 78 people and killed 12. Security forces have arrested more than 600 people. Many have faced torture and assault.
Opposition leader Nelson Chamisa spoke at one teenager’s funeral.
CHAMISA: This is a sick government because no serious government will deploy military and ammunition against ordinary citizens.
On Monday, Zimbabwe’s High Court ordered the government to restore full internet access. Officials cut it off days earlier to prevent reports of abuse from spreading.
The unrest caused Mnangagwa to cancel his trip to the Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Philippine autonomy vote—And finally, we end today in the Philippines, where residents of mainly Muslim areas voted Monday in a referendum for autonomy.
The vote is the culmination of a peace process aimed at ending sectarian violence, including the rise of Abu Sayyaf. That militant group has abducted Westerners and in 2016 pledged allegiance to ISIS.
At a rally Sunday, President Rodrigo Duterte urged residents on the southern island of Mindanao to vote “yes.”
DUTERTE: Let us forget the bitterness of the past and look forward to the future.
As part of the deal, the main rebel group will disarm as many as 40,000 fighters in the proposed Bangsamoro region. The government and rebel leaders hope stability will spur investment in the impoverished region, making young people less interested in joining radical groups.
That’s this week’s World Tour. I’m Mindy Belz.