A major media outlet rarely shows footage of, let alone mentions, the persecution of Christians around the world. However, this doesn’t mean such persecution is rare or only isolated to a few places in the world. According to Open Doors, more than 360 million Christians worldwide live under pressure and violence on account of their faith.
To help Christians pray for and support their persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ, Open Doors releases an annual World Watch List that identifies and ranks the fifty countries in the world where it is most costly to follow Christ. Many of the countries that rank the highest, including the new #1 on the list, are countries that Radical is working in through Urgent.
We asked Amy Lamb of Open Doors to identify some surprises, concerns, and encouraging aspects from the latest report.
What did you find most surprising about the latest persecution rankings?
Afghanistan is now the most dangerous place in the world to be a Christian, overtaking North Korea as #1 on the World Watch List for the first time in two decades. Incidents of violence against Christians and other religious minorities have skyrocketed since the Taliban takeover, sending Afghanistan to the top of the list. But religious freedom conditions in North Korea have not improved — they’ve worsened over the past year.
Before the Taliban takeover, it was almost impossible to live openly as a Christian in Afghanistan. Leaving Islam is considered shameful, and Christian converts face dire consequences if their new faith is discovered. They must either flee the country or be killed. The risk of discovery has only increased since the Taliban controls every aspect of government. This includes paperwork from international troops that may help identify Christians.
At #10 on the World Watch List, India is also a surprising enemy of faith. Radical Hindu extremism drives waves of persecution against Christians and other religious minorities. Anti-conversion laws are misused as a state-sponsored form of persecution. This incites incidents of harassment, violent attacks, and arrest on false charges. Corruption and religious discrimination at all levels of government also leave Christians without a legal means of recourse.
What did you find most concerning in the latest report?
At #17 on the World Watch List, China’s surveillance state continues to be a force of grave concern. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) views faith as a threat to the state. Their method wields a sophisticated system of online and offline surveillance to target, censor, and punish people of faith. Most concerning is that their blueprint of persecution is no longer contained within Chinese borders. The CCP is exporting this model to emerging authoritarian states, fueling an insidious threat to people of faith all around the world.
What is encouraging as you get reports from persecuted Christians?
An Afghan Christian refugee told Open Doors, “There is the love of Jesus, (even) in Afghanistan. This is what I want every American to know that despite what they heard in the news about the regime, the Mullahs, there are the people who like to have a lovely relationship with everyone: with the Jews, with the Muslims, Christians of every nationality.”
What’s a common misconception you think most Christians have regarding persecution?
It’s easy to assume that persecution discourages spiritual growth, but the more than 360 million Christians who suffer for their faith tell a different story. Where persecution rises, the church often experiences growth. More people are choosing Jesus than ever before, and Christians everywhere can be excited about that.
The World Watch List is a helpful way for us to apply Hebrews 13:3 on a global scale: “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.” While we can’t know or visit all persecuted Christians worldwide, we can pray for and support them in a variety of ways.
Let the World Watch List guide your prayers for the spread of the gospel and the strengthening of the church among the hardest to reach places in the world.