The retreat of US Forces and its allies from Afghanistan in 2021 has exposed the country’s Christians to renewed persecution and danger.
According to non-government organisation Open Doors, Afghanistan is now the most dangerous country in the world for Christians.
The country tops Open Doors’ annual World Watch List, which was released today. The list reveals the 50 most dangerous countries for Christians. (Top 11 listed below.) Open Doors is a non-denominational mission supporting persecuted Christians throughout the world.
The previous most dangerous country for those of Christian faith was North Korea.
It is the first time Afghanistan has topped the list since before the US-led invasion of the country in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in 2001.
“It is significant to witness Afghanistan take the place of North Korea as the most dangerous country for Christians to practice their faith,” Mike Gore, CEO of Open Doors Australia and New Zealand, said.
“Many Christians have been forced to flee or risk death at the hands of the Taliban,” – Open Doors CEO Mike Gore
“Many Christians have been forced to flee or risk death at the hands of the Taliban.”
Where faith is dangerous
The World Watch List aims to help spread global awareness of the persecution and discrimination of Christians.
According to Open Doors, around 360 million Christians experience a “high to extreme level of persecution in more than 50 countries”.
The top 10 countries on the list include Somalia, Libya, Yemen, Eritrea, Nigeria, Pakistan, Iran and India.
In Afghanistan, Open Doors reports that Christians lost their lives for practising their faith, and Christian families have been sent to forced labour camps.
The Taliban, which follows Islamic Sharia Law, does not traditionally recognise freedom of religion in Afghanistan.
This forces Christians to hide or flee to rural regions, or refugee havens in neighbouring nations. Open Doors reports that those countries also have histories of being hostile to Christians.
“Bringing to light the persecution of Christians remains the work of Open Doors for the foreseeable future,” Mr Gore said.
Top 11 countries on the World Watch List 2022
One of those persecuted people is Zabi (her name has been changed to protect her identity).
According to Open Doors, the Taliban murdered Zabi’s father for his Christian faith. And Zabi’s brother has disappeared.
Zabi, an educated human rights activist and Christian, fled Afghanistan with her mother.
“Our situation is desperate,” – Zabi
“Our situation is desperate,” Zabi told Open Doors. “I have money in my bank account, but cannot access it from here. What will happen to me? I’m praying I can leave this country and go somewhere safe. I may have to go into hiding. Or I’ll be deported to Afghanistan, but I may be killed if that happens.”
Other danger spots
“The release of the annual World Watch List once again demonstrates the level of persecution millions of Christians face around the world each day,” – Open Doors CEO Mike Gore
Other countries that have climbed ranks on the World Watch List include Indonesia, Myanmar and Qatar.
Before COVID-19 restrictions, Qatar tolerated Christian churches. But the places of worship were forced to close due to the pandemic, and they have not been permitted to re-open, according to Open Doors.
And for the first time since 2012, Cuba has made the list. Open Doors states that the “dictatorial regime intensified its action against all Christian leaders and activists opposing communist principles”.
“The release of the annual World Watch List once again demonstrates the level of persecution millions of Christians face around the world each day,” Mr Gore said.
Supporting Open Doors’ plight
“For Australian Christians, when you give to Open Doors your generous donation provides discipleship, emergency relief, and community development to persecuted Christians all over the world,” says Mr Gore.“Your financial support could help smuggle a Bible, disciple a secret believer, provide Christian education, a small business micro loans or trauma counselling.”
“We have been fundraising and making a lasting, effective impact for the persecuted church since 1955.”
All images supplied by Open Doors