Open Doors’ mission is to ensure that persecuted Christians do not suffer alone – but are connected to the worldwide church for support and encouragement.
Since 1993, the World Watch List has revealed the scale and severity of the persecution of Christians. In the last 30 years, the number of countries where Christians suffer high and extreme levels of persecution has almost doubled to 76 countries.
Today, more than 360m Christians suffer high levels of persecution and discrimination for their faith. In Open Doors’ World Watch List top 50 alone, 312m Christians face very high or extreme levels.
This overview of persecution trends gives some insight into the experience of Christians who follow Jesus no matter the cost.
Violence against Christians in Sub-Saharan Africa has reached new heights.
Jihadists are destabilizing countries in West and Central Africa. Entire countries are at risk of collapse into extremist violence. 26 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa face high levels of persecution; half of these have violence scores in the “extremely high” range.
The jihadist movement, which seeks to expand Sharia across the continent, has forced Christians into constant motion, from their homes to displacement camps, or to other countries. The insecurity stemming from this experience of forced displacement makes Christians even more vulnerable to further violence. Christian women, in particular, can be easily targeted for sexual attack, while men are more likely to lose their lives.
The Church in the Middle East is reduced and still under pressure.
The church has not been able to recover after the upsurge of Islamic State and the attempts of extremists to wipe out Christianity entirely.
Discrimination and oppression coupled with crippling economic decline means the church is losing hope, particularly for young people.
In the Levant region of the Middle East (Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Israel/Palestinian Territories and Jordan), the Christian community is shrinking due to deprivation, discrimination and persecution. Ever since the Islamic State group (IS) arrived on the scene, Christians in those areas of Iraq and Syria have been struggling to earn a living; young Christians in particular face high unemployment and continual hostility, thus encouraging their desire to emigrate. When Christian emigration increases, church communities are weakened as a consequence, deprived of the next generation of leaders and families, and so become easier targets for further marginalization.
Elsewhere in the region there has been less violence, fewer killings, but not a better outlook. Converts to Christianity from Islam continue to face high levels of pressure from family and community.
Conditions for the Church has worsened in Latin America.
On the 2022 list, three Latin American countries were ranked in the top 50. On the 2023 list, there are now four: Nicaragua is ranked No. 50 in 2023, the first time the country has appeared within the top 50. It joins Colombia (22), Cuba (27) and Mexico (38).
Corrupt and ineffective government has created space for criminal groups and ethnic leaders to emerge, strengthen and become drivers of persecution – especially in rural areas and among indigenous populations.
Government repression in Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela has intensified against those who are seen as opposition voices. In Nicaragua especially, communist repression of church leaders became increasingly visible during the year.