Approximately 1 in 12 Christians go through intense scrutiny or hardship for their faith, according to Open Doors’ World Watch List 2018.
The annual report chronicles the top 50 countries where Christians are singled out and deal with daily pressure from various spheres of life including national, community, and family. The list also factors in the amount of violent incidents against Christians and the Church.
For the 16th consecutive year, North Korea placed as the hardest place on the planet to live if you’re a Christian. It was the only country of 11 labeled as placing “Extreme” persecution on Christians not located in east Africa or the Middle East.
And while the majority of countries on the list stretch from Africa’s northern coast eastward, two in the western hemisphere appear. Mexico and Columbia – at 39th and 49th, respectively – both garnered “High Persecution” status.
“It’s easy to move through life disconnected from what happens to believers in other parts of the world. But this report helps us close the gap between us,” wrote Open Doors CEO David Curry in a letter accompanying the study available for download at its website. “The World Watch List helps us understand how to pray, to support, to empathize, and to stand with persecuted Christians when they suffer – and rejoice with them when conditions improve.”
Three trends explained the level of persecution.
The spread of radical Islam. The movement aims to bring Sharia law in many parts of the world. Studies show its growth in Asian countries like the Philippines, Bangladesh, and Indonesia. The African countries of Egypt, Nigeria, and Somalia appear to be affected as well.
The rise of religious nationalism. The governments of India and Nepal use Hindu nationalism to marginalize Christians and consolidate power. Buddhist nations such as Myanmar and Sri Lanka also utilize the practice.
Intense persecution in Central Asia. Open Doors claims a grassroots revival of Islam in the region has brought about persecution for Christians in countries like Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan. Azerbaijan, at #45, makes its first appearance on the list.
Other findings from the report include some 215 million Christians experiencing high levels of persecution worldwide. Open Doors concluded that during its reporting period for the World Watch List 2018, approximately 3,066 Christians were killed; 1,252 were abducted; 1,020 were raped or sexually harassed; and 793 churches were attacked.