For the first time in 20 years, Afghanistan is now rated the #1 most dangerous place in the world to be a Christian according to the World Watch List 2022.
For the past 30 years Open Doors has released the World Watch List 2022, revealing the 50 most dangerous countries to be a Christian, to help increase global awareness of the persecution and discrimination people face for practising their faith.
According to the NGO, Afghanistan is now the number one most dangerous country in the world to be a Christian. Since 2000, North Korea has been at the top of the list but for the first time in 20 years, a new country has taken the number one spot, according to the World Watch List 2022 released yesterday.
World Watch List 2022, Top 10
- North Korea
Over the past 20 years North Korea has grown increasingly worse for Christians, countless individuals have lost their lives for practising their faith and whole families have been sent to forced labour camps. But even as persecution has increased in North Korea, it has become more extreme for Christians living in Afghanistan.
This year Afghanistan is the most dangerous country in the world to identify as a Christian as all Christians were forced into hiding or were killed following the Taliban takeover in August 2021. Afghanistan was already number 2 on the World Watch List, as freedom of religion was not prioritised by the former regime. Converting from Islam is forbidden and Christians who are discovered face certain death.
Right now, Christians in Afghanistan are being hunted down and their names are known to the Taliban. They are living are under deplorable conditions and are forced to stay in hiding, operating completely underground. Many Christians have fled to rural regions, or refugee camps in neighbouring nations – all of which are countries hostile to Christians.
Mike Gore, CEO of Open Doors Australia and New Zealand says, “It is significant to witness Afghanistan take the place of North Korea as the most dangerous country for Christians to practice their faith. Many Christians have been forced to flee or risk death at the hands of the Taliban."
“Bringing to light the persecution of Christians remains the work of Open Doors for the foreseeable future. Our goal is to equip and strengthen the global Church to stand courageously for Jesus.”
The World Watch List 2022 reveals in the top 50 countries how Christians face a level of persecution measured as extreme, very high or high. In total, more than 360 million Christians worldwide face persecution and discrimination measured as extreme, very high or high.
Released each year, ranking the top countries where the persecution of Christians is most extreme, the World Watch List is the most authoritative of its kind. The list accounts for the 12 months from 1 Oct 2020 to 30 Sept 2021. The list and its methodology are audited by the International Institute for Religious Freedom.
The biggest risers include:
- Niger - the fastest riser on the list from #54 to #33.
- Qatar rises to #18 from #29 as a result of the closure of the majority of house churches. After COVID-19 restrictions were lifted, many house churches that had once been tolerated were forced to stay closed. Converts from Islam to Christianity remain under very high pressure from the Qatari government and Qatari society.
- Myanmar rises to #12 from #18 as violence intensifies since the military coup. In parts of the country, the army loots and destroys churches and homes with impunity. The military fear Christian gatherings could be a focus for opposition and have attacked and killed pastors and helpers in IDP camps. Converts face strong pressure from family and community.
- Indonesia rises mainly due to the deadly attacks against Christians in Sulawesi. In November 2020, two assassins tried to get into a church in Sulawesi. They were challenged and failed, and blew themselves up, injuring 20. In May 2021, still in Sulawesi, four Christians were beheaded by Islamic extremists. Many arrests of Muslim extremists followed, and in September security forces killed their leader. Indonesia is the world's largest Muslim country. And attitudes are becoming more conservative.
- Cuba – first time on the list since 2012. An increase in both pressure in all spheres of life and violence caused the overall score to rise by 4 points. The dictatorial regime intensified its action against all Christian leaders and activists opposing Communist principles, especially after the widespread demonstrations which occurred in July 2021. Government measures included arbitrary fines, close surveillance, denials of licenses and religious visas, arrest and physical/mental abuse.
“The release of the annual World Watch List once again demonstrates the level of persecution millions of Christians face around the world each day,” says Gore.
About World Watch List: The World Watch List 2022 is a ranking of the 50 countries where the persecution of Christians is most extreme. It is produced using detailed information from 150 countries. Data is gathered on five spheres of life – private, family, community, national and church life. A sixth block, ‘violence’, cuts across all five, and measures serious ‘violence’ (including deprivation of freedom) to people or property. Persecution in each country is recorded by Open Doors using a points system. Open Doors' research methods and results are independently audited by the International Institute for Religious Freedom. The World Watch List 2022 accounts for the 12 months from 1 Oct 2020 to 30 Sept 2021.
About Open Doors Australia: Since 1955, Open Doors has been helping people follow Jesus all over the world, no matter the cost. We equip and strengthen the global Church to stand courageously for Jesus, united through bold faith as the body of Christ. We partner with the local church in over 70 countries to strengthen them in the face of persecution and advance the gospel. To find out more visit www.opendoors.org.au