The Top 50 Countries Where It’s Hardest to Be a Christian

Image: Open Door USA

Every day, 8 Christians worldwide are killed because of their faith.

Every week, 182 churches or Christian buildings are attacked.

And every month, 309 Christians are imprisoned unjustly.

So reports the 2020 World Watch List (WWL), the latest annual accounting from Open Doors of the top 50 countries where Christians are the most persecuted for their faith.

“We cannot let this stand,” said David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors USA, during the 2020 list’s unveiling in Washington, DC, this morning. “People are speaking out and we have an obligation to hear their cry.”

The listed nations comprise 260 million Christians suffering high to severe levels of persecution, up from 245 million in last year’s list.

Another 50 million could be added from the 23 nations that fall just outside the top 50—such as Mexico, Chad, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo—for a ratio of 1 in 8 Christians worldwide facing persecution.

Last year, 40 nations scored high enough to register “very high” persecution levels. This year, it reached 45.

Open Doors has monitored Christian persecution worldwide since 1992. North Korea has ranked No. 1 since 2002, when the watch list began.

The 2020 version tracks the time period from November 1, 2018 to October 31, 2019, and is compiled from reports by Open Doors workers in more than 60 countries. The list “provides the most comprehensive grassroots data on Christian persecution,” said Curry. “But it is much more than that. It is sounding an alarm.”

Last year, CT noted “Asia Rising” as India entered the top 10 for the first time while China rose from No. 43 to No. 27.

That trend continues, as 2 in 5 Asian Christians now face high levels of persecution, up from 1 in 3 the previous reporting period. China’s crackdown on both state-sanctioned and underground churches and its growing surveillance network added 16 million to Open Doors’s tally of Christians facing persecution.

“The Chinese government is committing unparalleled human rights crimes against Christian citizens and seeking to wipe religious sentiment from its country,” stated Curry in a press release ahead of today’s event. “Yet, as the Chinese Christians who will join me will testify, the persecution Christians face—including extensive surveillance, raids on churches, and imprisonment—have not succeeded in eliminating Christianity.

“Instead, the underground Christian community has banded together and is actively working to call the world’s attention to the plight of the Chinese people. We will join them in that call.”

At the DC rollout, Curry was joined by Chinese pastor Jian Zhu. “The persecution of Christians is the worst I have seen since 1979,” he said. “Christians have a worldwide brotherhood, and the government sees this as a threat.”

“It is time for religious persecution to stop once and for all,” said Robert Destro, Assistant Secretary of State in the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, at today’s rollout. “But as we all know, that is a long-term proposition.”

The point of the annual WWL rankings—which have chronicled how North Korea now has competition as persecution only gets worse and worse, is to aim for more effective anger while showing persecuted believers that they are not forgotten.

This year the top 10 is relatively unchanged. After North Korea is Afghanistan (No. 2), followed by Somalia (No. 3), Libya (No. 4), Pakistan (No. 5), Eritrea (No. 6), Sudan (No. 7), Yemen (No. 8), Iran (No. 9), and India (No. 10).

Open Doors tracks persecution across six categories—including both social and governmental pressure on individuals, families, and congregations—and has a special focus on women.

But when violence is isolated as a category, the top 10 persecutors shifts dramatically—only Pakistan and India remain.

Five of the most violent countries for Christians are located in the Sahel, a horizontal belt of semi-arid grazing areas and farmland located between the Sahara Desert and the African savannah.

Militant Islamist rebel groups and terrorists have proliferated in the Sahel in recent years. Conflict between Muslim herders and Christian farmers has also resulted in violence. And weakened government structures leave the population vulnerable.

Nigeria, where Africa’s largest Christian population has no cheeks left to turn, ranked No. 12 overall but is second behind only Pakistan in terms of violence, and ranks No. 1 in the number of Christians killed for reasons related to their faith. Open Doors tallied 1,350 Nigerian martyrs in its 2020 list.

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Source: Christianity Today