The Problem

100 million Christians face persecution simply for following Jesus

All across the world Christians are living in horrifically hostile places. They are beaten, abused, tortured, victimised and accused just because of their faith. They have no voice. We don’t always hear their stories. They are hidden. Forgotten. Ignored.

For us in the West, church is very different. We don’t gather in secret. We don’t fear that our attendance at a worship night might put us on a government blacklist. We can openly talk about God and meet with others.

But our relationship with Jesus connects us to secret believers around the world. We share the same heartbeat. Together, we are the God’s Church. Brothers and sisters – part of the same body, all seeking to show the love we’ve received to the world around us. And when one part of the body suffers, we all do.

2017 World Watch List

The 2017 Open Doors World Watch List ranks the 50 countries where persecution against Christians is most severe. The list shows that for the fourth year in a row, the level of overall persecution has risen. North Korea is still number one and in other places Islamic extremism continues to strangle the expression of the Christian faith.

Yet, there is good news – above all, the fact that the church is growing. There has been a remarkable growth in believers from a Muslim background. And all around the world, persecuted Christians are continuing to discover a depth, a strength, a brightness to their faith that can only be found in the darkest times.

The map here lists all 50 countries, but you can find out some more specific details about the top ten on the list below. Have a look and join us in prayer for followers of Jesus who are facing extreme persecution.

Country Profiles

Persecution Level:

  Extreme:Severe   Very High:Absolute   High:Moderate

Free resource
The Problem

North Korea

For yet another year North Korea is officially the worst place in the world to be a Christian...
The Problem


In Iraq, every 2-3 days a Christian is killed, kidnapped or abused...

Key trends: Darkness and light

Each year the World Watch List reveals some depressingly dark facts. This year is no different. But behind the facts are also signs of hope. Read the points below to get the full picture.

The darkness

1. Christians are being killed for their faith in more countries than before
Believers were killed for their faith all across the world, even in tiny Laos. At least 23 Christian leaders were killed in Mexico, and four in Colombia. Ironically, fewer reports came in of Christians having been killed in Syria and Iraq – but only because most believers have already fled.

2. In Asia, political and religious nationalism is rising
With the exception of war-torn Yemen, the countries adding most points on the list all came from Asia, from countries like Laos, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Bhutan. In most of these countries, governments equate the dominant religion with their nationality: to be Sri Lankan, for example, is to be Buddhist; to be a Malay is to be Muslim.

3. In sub-Saharan Africa, Islamic radicalisation is entering the mainstream
In Somalia, Nigeria, Kenya and Mali Islamic extremist groups have targeted Christians, whilst the Islamic governments of Sudan and Somalia are actively anti-Christian. As a Somalian believer said, “Everything works against the Christian.” And in Somalia, Kenya and Niger, Saudi Arabian money is building schools and mosques, and funding local politicians, leading to a growing presence of radical Islam in mainstream society.

The light

1. Persecution is creating a more indigenous Chinese church
Some 60 million of China’s 97 million Christians worship outside state-organised churches. A pastor in Shanghai was forced to close his growing church by officials who became alarmed at its size. He says mega churches like his were just copying western styles, but that ‘Now that we have had to disperse back into smaller groups, I believe we have the chance to become a truly indigenous church.’

2. Christians are hoping to return to their historic homes in northern Iraq
When Islamic militants overran the Nineveh plains in 2014, over 80,000 Christians fled their homes. Now some of their towns and villages have been liberated, they are determined to return. “We will go back with a greater determination to keep freedom defended,” said a church leader in Iraq. But many homes have been destroyed and towns are in ruins. The rebuilding and reconciliation process will be long.

…they will form a new strand of the church that will be more biblical and vibrant, and they will bless the world.

3. Believers from Muslim backgrounds keep their faith a secret
But in Indonesia, the country with the world’s largest population of Muslims, many new believers from Muslim backgrounds are emerging – and they are independent, strong and fearless. As a long-time observer said: “They live a lifestyle that is not fearful – they will form a new strand of the church that will be more biblical and vibrant, and they will bless the world.”

4. The ‘exodus’ of Christians in the Middle East is slowing… for now.
The number of Christians leaving the Middle East has slowed, not least because, in the words of a refugee worker in Jordan, “If you were a Christian and you had resources, you’ve already gone.” Yet a great many Christians remain in the region. Their continued presence is by no means secure, but they remain committed to staying.

The World Watch List explained

The World Watch List (WWL) is an independently audited ranking of 50 countries where persecution of Christians for religious reasons is worst. The list covers persecution of Christians of all denominations in that entire country. The focus is on persecution for faith, not persecution for political, economic, social, ethnic or accidental reasons.

Open Doors has been monitoring persecution of Christians worldwide since the 1970s and today, the World Watch List provides a comprehensive snapshot of the problem facing many followers of Jesus across the world.

Most importantly though, the list isn’t simply an academic exercise. Behind the stats and figures lie the fate of over 100 million members of our worldwide Church family, an essential tool in helping us pray and act for change.

Helpful Resources

Things to help you grasp the extent of persecution facing Christians today...

'2017 World Watch Poster' and Map
Download now...
'Pray With Them' Guide
Download now...
2017 World Watch Youth Session (and downloads)
Download now...
Faces of Persecution video (as part of World Watch Session)
Download now...
The Problem


In Afghanistan Christian converts face massive pressure from extremists...
The Problem

Faces behind the figures

Meet six persecuted Christians from around the world who really need your prayers and support...

Help solve the problem

Give a Bible or send a relief pack to help Christians facing persecution now!

How you can help

Want to help? Brilliant. There’s loads of ways to get involved and support your persecuted family around the world.

First off, pray. Brother Andrew, the guy who started Open Doors, said “Our prayers can go where we cannot…there are no borders, no prison walls, no doors that are closed to us when we pray.” So, spend time praying regularly for the church in parts of the world where following Jesus is restricted.
Get the latest prayer news…

Secondly, tell other people about the injustices facing Christians around the world. It’s vital that the church in the West comes to know and understand what is happening… You could tell people simply by sharing our posts or getting involved and running an event or switching on to one of our campaigns… it’s up to you…

Thirdly, you can give. Just £10 will bring hope by providing a Bible to a young Christian at risk of being persecuted for following Jesus.

Read and share our news…
Find out what you can do…
Send a gift of hope

The Problem

Afiniki's story

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Pasha's story

Pasha is a secret Christian in Iran who had an amazing dream where he met Jesus!
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Jong-Cheol's story

Jong-Cheol was an 11 year old North Korean boy who lived on the streets...
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Sofia's story

Sofia is from Colombia. When she was 9 her Mum and Dad were killed by rebels...
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Yohannes' story

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Fatima's story

I am unto death a Christian. Fatima's story is amazing and shocking...

We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.