A thousand more Christians were killed for their faith last year than the year before. A thousand more Christians were detained. Six hundred more churches were attacked or closed. And […]
A thousand more Christians were killed for their faith last year than the year before. A thousand more Christians were detained. Six hundred more churches were attacked or closed. And Afghanistan is the new No. 1, according to the 2022 World Watch List, the latest annual accounting from Open Doors of the top 50 countries where it is most dangerous and difficult to be a Christian.
“This year’s findings indicate seismic changes in the persecution landscape,” said David Curry, president of Open Doors USA.
Since Open Doors began its tally in 1992, North Korea has led the ranking. But since Afghanistan’s takeover by the Taliban last August, Afghan believers have had to leave their country or relocate internally. Many lost everything they had, notes the report, while house churches were closed in their wake.
“Before the Taliban, it was not great, but it was good,” said one evacuated Afghan, requesting anonymity in hopes that he may one day return. “[Now] Christians are living in fear, in secret, totally underground.”
Open Doors is quick to note the displacement of North Korea to No. 2 does not reflect an improvement in religious freedom there. On the contrary, a new anti–reactionary thought law has resulted in an increase of Christian arrests and house church closures.
Overall, 360 million Christians live in nations with high levels of persecution or discrimination. That’s 1 in 7 Christians worldwide, including 1 in 5 believers in Africa, 2 in 5 in Asia, and 1 in 15 in Latin America.
Last year, for the first time in 29 years of tracking, all 50 nations scored high enough to register “very high” persecution levels on Open Doors’ 84-question matrix. This year, all 50 again qualified—as did 5 more nations that fell just outside the cut-off.
While Islamic extremism continues to create the most persecution, Open Doors noted that COVID-19 restrictions “have become an easy way to tighten control and surveillance over religious minorities and worship services” in China and other nations. Researchers also found that persecution is increasingly displacing Christians from their communities, with tens of thousands—especially from Myanmar—becoming refugees in other nations.
The top 10 is Afghanistan, North Korea, Somalia, Libya, Yemen, Eritrea, Nigeria, Pakistan, Iran and India.