The global coronavirus pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated underlying systemic discrimination, un-equal treatment and even persecution experienced by at least 340 million Christians around the world. That’s the conclusion of the 2021 World Watch List, the latest annual survey of countries around the world to monitor how difficult it is to live as a Christian, produced by the global charity Open Doors International. This year, for the first time ever, all top 50 countries score levels of at least “very high” persecution; the top 12 scoring “extreme” levels of persecution, up from 11 the year before.

Beyond the top 50, four more countries also score “very high,” showing the impact of COVID-19 restrictions. Overall, 74 countries — one more than the previous year — showed extreme, very high or high levels of persecution, affecting an average of at least 1 of every 8 Christians worldwide.

COVID-19 has been a catalyst for repression of minority Christians, who in countries from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan to Yemen and Sudan were at times denied aid; some were told it was because “your Church or your God should feed you” or even “the virus was created and/or spread by the West”.

The main changes in the top 10 countries from WWL 2020 are that Nigeria has entered it – for the first time since 2015 – at no. 9, up from no. 12 last year.  Yemen and Iran have both risen one place. India stays at no. 10, where it entered the top 10 for the first time in 2020, due to rising Hindu nationalism.

World Watch Monitor