It is crucial this Christmas to take a moment to remember the millions of persecuted Christians around the world. More than 340 million Christians live in places where they experience high levels of persecution just for following Jesus. That’s 1 in 8 believers worldwide.
Each year the human rights organization, Open Doors, releases a report that ranks the top 50 countries where Christians are most persecuted for their faith. In addition to the information, they supply readers with how to pray for each country.
The majority of countries listed in this year’s report are either Muslim majority or have sizable Muslim populations. This year, the top 10 worst persecutors are relatively unchanged. After North Korea is Afghanistan, followed by Somalia, Libya, Pakistan, Eritrea, Yemen, Iran, Nigeria, and India.
Nigeria entered the top 10 for the first time after maxing out Open Doors’ metric for violence. With Africa’s largest Christian population, the nation ranks No. 9 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.
Sudan left the top 10 for the first time in six years after abolishing the death penalty for apostasy and guaranteeing freedom of religion in its new Constitution after three decades of Islamic Law. Yet, it remains number 13 on the list. Open Doors researchers noted that Christians from Muslim backgrounds still face attacks, ostracization, and discrimination from their families and communities, while Christian women face sexual violence.
13 Christians Killed Every Day Because Of Their Faith
The genocidal levels of persecution are staggering. According to the report, 13 Christians worldwide are killed every day because of their faith. Each day 12 churches or Christian buildings are attacked, and 12 Christians are unjustly arrested or imprisoned, while another five are abducted.
The report states 309 million Christians live in places with “very high” or “extreme” levels of persecution. That’s up 260 million from those accounted for last year. Sadly, the number of persecuted Christians continues to grow year after year.
Why The Increase of Persecution
Open Doors identified three main trends driving last year’s increase:
- “COVID-19 acted as a catalyst for religious persecution through relief discrimination, forced conversion, and as justification for increasing surveillance and censorship.”
- “Extremist attacks opportunistically spread further throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, from Nigeria and Cameroon to Burkina Faso, Mali, and beyond.”
- Chinese censorship systems continue to propagate and spread to emerging surveillance states.”
You might think the World Watch List is all about oppression…But the [list] is really all about resilience,” stated David Curry, president, and CEO of Open Doors USA, introducing the report released today.
“The numbers of God’s people who are suffering should mean the Church is dying, that Christians are keeping quiet, losing their faith.” But, he continued with a quote from the prophet Isaiah and said that’s not what’s happening “as they make their way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Isa. 43:19, ESV).
“When our sisters and brothers are persecuted for their faith, and they still choose Jesus, the Living Water—this is a miracle in front of our eyes,” declared Curry.
See the complete 2021 World Watch List here. As you read through it, they request that you consider the words of 1 Corinthians 12:26: “If one part [of the Body of Christ] suffers, every part suffers with it.” So pray through this year’s report and let it move your heart. Learn how the Body of Christ is hurting and how they are finding joy in Him even amid the pain. And learn how, in Jesus, we are one Church, one Family.