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Where did faith cost the most?

On 15 July 1955, a young Dutch Christian man called Andrew took the train to a mass communist convention in Warsaw, Poland – a pretty strange place for a Christian to go. In his suitcase, Andrew carried a bunch of booklets, titled ‘The Way of Salvation’. He wanted to make sure that he could share the good news of the Gospel. If people were going to be promoting communist ideology, he was going to explain the truth of God’s love.

In that time, Poland was a country behind the Iron Curtain – a boundary between countries influenced by the Soviet Union and its communist agenda and other countries in Europe with a free-er political system.

When in Poland, Andrew heard the story of the persecuted Church first-hand. He began telling the stories he heard back home in Holland. Not long later he was supporting the Polish church, taking them Bibles in a Volkswagen Beetle. It was the beginning of Open Doors. Sixty years later and we’ve grown into an international ministry serving the persecuted Church around the world.

Nowadays, the World Watch List is Open Doors’ main tool of measuring persecution, listing the countries where Christian faith costs the most.

In 1955, such a list didn’t exist. However, looking back over sixty years of serving the persecuted Church – and with today’s knowledge – what countries could have ended up in a 1955 World Watch List? Have a look below to see – sadly Christians in countries like North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Kenya still face a tough time living out their faith in Jesus.

The Soviet Union (USSR)

An estimated 15 million Russian Orthodox Christians died in prison camps from 1921-1950.


From 1947 onwards, all Christian schools, organisations and churches were closed or taken over by the state.


After World War II, a million Russian soldiers occupied Romania and Christians were treated with hostility.


State-imposed atheism left Christians to suffer discrimination and risk imprisonment.


Under Mao Zedong, religion was swiftly quashed. Missionaries left, churches closed, and priests and pastors were killed.

North Korea

Christians were heavily targeted and either fled south, hid their faith, or faced torture, imprisonment or death.

North Vietnam

After Vietnam was divided in 1954, the Christian population in the north halved as people fled to the south.

Saudi Arabia

Even in 1955, Saudi Arabia was the protector of Wahhabism (purist Islam), forbidding the practice of other religions.


In the civil war (1948-1958), Catholic Christians were targeted, and 300,000 evangelical Christians were murdered.


Under Francisco Franco’s reign, Christians, particularly Catholics, were attacked and killed, and churches were burned.


Christians faced pressure to support the Mau Mau rebels, or risked being killed. Church membership dwindled significantly.

The World Watch List in 2015

Check out this page to see where following Jesus costs the most in 2015. Download (or request a copy of) our World Watch Poster too, to help you pray for the countries involved.

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