A Christian persecution watchdog has warned that more Christians around the world are suffering because of their faith, and the kind of persecution they’re experiencing has intensified.
Open Doors has found that more than 340 million Christians suffer high levels of persecution and discrimination for their faith, amounting to one in eight worldwide.
The charity has released its 2021 World Watch List (WWL) which highlights the top 50 countries that are most hostile toward Christians.
Here are the top ten.
1. North Korea
Being discovered as a Christian is a death sentence in North Korea. If you aren’t killed instantly, you will be taken to a labour camp as a political criminal.
ISIS and the Taliban continue to have a strong, violent presence in Afghanistan, with the Taliban controlling large regions.
Islam is considered a crucial part of Somali identity, and if any Somali is suspected of having converted to Christianity, they are in great danger. Members of their family, clan or community will harass, intimidate or even kill them. Women may be raped and forcibly married.
There is no freedom of speech, no freedom of religion and very limited possibility of public church life in Libya. Although there are around 34,500 Christians in the country, only a tiny number (approximately 150) are Libyan – the majority are expatriates and migrant workers.
Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws are used to target Christians, and Islamic extremist groups vehemently “defend” these laws, including attacking or killing those believed to have contravened them.
Government security forces monitor phone calls, scrutinize activity and conduct countless raids which target Christians, seize Christian materials and damage house churches. Christians can be arrested and imprisoned without trial.
Christians in Yemen usually keep their faith secret, because if they are discovered then they could face the death penalty. Leaving Islam is forbidden, and all Yemenis are considered Muslims by the state.
The Iranian government sees the conversion of Muslims to Christianity as an attempt by Western countries to undermine the Islamic rule of Iran. Christians from a Muslim background are persecuted the most, primarily by the government, but also by their families and communities.
More Christians are murdered for their faith in Nigeria than in any other country. Violent attacks by Boko Haram, Hausa-Fulani Muslim militant herdsmen, ISWAP (an affiliate of ISIS) and other Islamic extremist groups are common in the north and middle belt of the country, and are becoming more common further south.
Hindu extremists believe that all Indians should be Hindus, and that the country should be rid of Christianity and Islam. They use extensive violence to achieve this goal, particularly targeting Christians from a Hindu background.