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Open Doors International
Alliance church Aleppo.jpg
Open Doors International
World News

Christian persecution: Global numbers rise by 15 million in 1 year

by Heather Preston

The number of Christians at risk of persecution across the globe has risen by 15 million in the past year according to a religious freedom charity.
 
Open Doors has released its annual World Watch List, which assesses the scale of persecution faced by Christians across the world and ranks the top 50 countries of concern for the following year.
 
According to the study, 260 million Christians live in countries where they experience high, very high or extreme levels of persecution - this is up from 245 million in 2019.
 
One of the reports key conclusions is that the world has become less tolerant and less safe for hundreds of millions of the world's Christians.
 
An average of eight believers a day are killed for their faith across the globe while 23 are raped or sexually harassed for religious reasons. 

Every week 186 church buildings are attacked and 276 Christian homes are burned or destroyed while an average of 309 are unjustly imprisoned for their beliefs each month.
 
Open Doors UK and Ireland CEO Henrietta Blyth tells Premier a rise in Islamic extremism is one contributing factor: "Islamic extremism is growing particularly in West Africa. There are many countries there that are now on the list of the Top 50. For example, Burkina Faso has appeared on the list for the first time this year at number 28. It's gone from zero to very high persecution within 12 months."

Nigeria which is number twelve on the list, saw the highest number of Christians killed for their faith, with approximately 1,350 Christians killed in the 2020 reporting period.

Northeastern Nigeria, an area severely affected by Boko Haram

As well as highlighting the plight of Christians in Sub-saharan Africa, the charity's findings show a worsening of treatment across Asia. In China digital surveillance has increased with one church using facial recognition to monitor worshippers while India is expected to follow similar trends. Violence against minority groups has also increased in the Hindu majority country with 1,445 physical attacks and death threats reported against Christians in the past year.

North Korea remains the most dangerous place to live as a Christian, and has been at the top of the World Watch List since its records began in 2002.


Something as simple as owning a Bible there can lead to a person's arrest and permanent imprisonment in one of the country's labour camps.
 
2019 was a significant year for exposing the plight of millions of Christians across the globe with Sri Lanka's Easter bombings killing 259 people in a series of targeted attacks by Islamic extremists.
 
Asia Bibi, the Christian mother sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan was set free and reunited with her family, after spending nine years on death row and Nigeria saw the beheading of 11 Christian hostages on Christmas Day.
 
In July, the recommendations of the Foreign Office's report into persecuted Christians by the Bishop of Truro was accepted by the Government and in December the Prime Minister committed to stand in solidarity with persecuted Christians.
 
A report based on Open Door's findings was launched in the House of Commons on Wednesday to outline how faith communities and organisations can provide vital support to vulnerable Christians. The charity is calling on the government to recognise religious vulnerability and provide adequate funding to support international humanitarian efforts and local faith leaders in the field.
 

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