By Aaron Earls
Around 215 million Christians face significant levels of persecution in the world today, according to the latest World Watch List from Open Doors.
Researchers for the organization estimate 1 in 12 Christians live where their faith is “illegal, forbidden, or punished.”
During reporting for the 2018 World Watch List, 3,066 Christians were killed, 1,252 were abducted, 1,020 were raped or sexually harassed, and 793 churches were attacked.
Much of the violence and oppression of Christians was concentrated in several nations that dominate the list, especially North Korea.
The Asian nation has topped the list for more than a decade. And 2018 is no different.
“It is illegal to be a Christian in North Korea and Christians are often sent to labor camps or killed if they are discovered,” Open Doors said. “The conditions in this country have remained the worst in the world for Christians in the past 13 years.”
Close behind North Korea is Afghanistan, jumping from third last year.
The two nations had the worst possible scores in private life, family life, community life, national life, and church life. North Korea had a 0.6 worse score on violence, which pushed it to a 94 out of 100 compared to Afghanistan’s 93.
“Never before have the top two countries been so close in incidents,” said David Curry, Open Doors USA president and CEO. “Both countries are extreme in intolerance and outright persecution of Christians in every area Open Doors monitors.”
Including Afghanistan, 33 of the 50 worst nations for Christians are on the list due to Islamic oppression.
Six countries are on the list because of dictatorial paranoia, with the African nation Eritrea being the highest ranked. Five made the list for religious nationalism, India for example.
Communist and post-Communist oppression caused four nations to make the watch list, including North Korea and China.
Organized crime and corruption placed Mexico and Colombia in the top 50.
Christianity Today reported that fifth-ranked Pakistan recorded the most violence against Christians last year and was the worst in terms of church attacks, abductions, and forced marriages.
The 10 worst nations for Christians are:
- North Korea
Thirty of the 50 nations on the list saw conditions worsen for Christians since the last report. Most of the nations with the largest increase in persecution were in Islamic nations, with the notable exception of India.
“In 2014, India scored only 55 points, while during the 2018 reporting period, researchers assigned 91 points to the nation—one of the most intense increases seen.”
Nepal and Azerbaijan joined the list this year, replacing Comoros and Tanzania, the latter of which saw remarkable improvement for Christians.
“Tanzania is the most eye-catching example of a country where the situation for Christians considerably improved,” said Open Doors.
Curry said the list is designed to help other Christians better understand how to pray for and support persecuted believers around the world.
“After all, the World Watch List isn’t about the numbers,” he said, “but about the people these numbers represent. I hope you see their stories of victory and resilience, and—more than anything—I hope you see the powerful kingdom work God is accomplishing in some of the most difficult countries in the world.”
Pray for strength and courage for Christians around the globe who suffer persecution. Download Open Door’s World Watch List pdf for prayer requests specific to each nation.
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AARON EARLS (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor of Facts & Trends.