Over the 30 years of the Open Doors World Watch List reporting, the global phenomenon of Christian persecution has grown alarmingly.
In fact, more than 360 million Christians face high levels of persecution and discrimination for their faith. That’s the equivalent of 1 in 7 Christians worldwide.
Open Doors Australia and New Zealand is part of Open Doors International, a global NGO network which has supported and strengthened persecuted Christians for over 60 years.
Released at the beginning of each year, the list uses extensive research, data from Open Doors field workers, their in-country networks, external experts and persecution analysts to quantify and analyze persecution worldwide. Each edition is certified by the International Institute for Religious Freedom.
Countries’ overall persecution scores are an amalgamation of six different scores: pressure levels in private life, family life, community life and national life, and of church communities, along with violence levels.
The 10 countries experiencing the greatest persecution are (last year’s ranking in brackets):
- North Korea (2)
- Somalia (3)
- Yemen (5)
- Eritrea (6)
- Libya (4)
- Nigeria (7)
- Pakistan (8)
- Iran (9)
- Afghanistan (1)
- Sudan (13)
Key findings from the report
Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) faces a vast humanitarian catastrophe, as a wave of religiously motivated violence nurtured in Nigeria (7) has swept across the region, targeting Christian populations at an alarming rate in countries like Burkina Faso (23), Cameroon (45), Mali (17) and Niger (28). Signs of jihadist expansion are also clearly visible in Mozambique (32), Congo DR (37) and other countries.
China (17) is forging a network of nations seeking to redefine human rights – away from universal standards and religious freedoms. Dissenting voices such as Christians’ face persecution as ‘troublemakers’ or even ‘terrorists’. China has clamped down further on Christians, introducing sweeping new rules on churches’ use of the internet.
North Korea has returned to the top position, where – with the exception of the last reporting period – it has remained since WWL 2002. This year sees its highest ever persecution score. This reflects an increase in arrests of Christians and more underground house churches discovered and closed. Arrest means execution, or life in one of the nation’s horrifically inhumane camps for political prisoners, where prisoners face near-starvation, torture and sexual violence.
Glimmers of hope
The total number of Christians killed for their faith decreased slightly from 5,898 recorded cases (WWL 2022) to 5,621 (WWL 2023) – the clear exception being Sub-Saharan Africa. The total number of Christians abducted for faith-related reasons increased from 3,829 recorded cases (WWL 2022) to 5,259 (WWL 2023).
There has been promotion of greater tolerance in a number of Middle Eastern countries, including Bahrain and the UAE, and also in Egypt. Unfortunately, state persecution of converts from Islam to Christianity continued unabated in Egypt. Qatar also has a lower persecution score this year. This was caused by the fact that no additional churches were forced to close in the WWL 2023 reporting period. However, many churches closed in the previous reporting period remained shut.
To access the full report and support the work of Open Doors, visit the website.
Listen to 96five’s Alex Milne speaking to Gabriel Billich-Neville from Open Doors Australia in the audio player at the top of the page.