The Problem

1 in every 8 Christians face high, very high or extreme levels of persecution simply for following Jesus

Followers of Jesus around the world are shining God’s love and light. The church is alive, active and living out God’s mission. And that’s why Christians are being persecuted.

Around the world, 1 in every 8 Christians face high, very high or extreme levels of persecution. That means they can face death, horrific violence, arrest, torture, imprisonment, harassment or rejection simply because of their choice to follow Jesus.

For us Christians in the West, living out our faith can seem very different. We don’t gather in secret. We don’t fear that our attendance at a worship night might get us arrested. Our grades aren’t marked down because of our beliefs. We can openly talk about God and share his love with others without worrying we could face prison.

But our relationship with Jesus connects us to secret believers around the world. We share the same heartbeat. Together, we are 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.

2020 World Watch List

The 2020 Open Doors World Watch List ranks the 50 countries where persecution against Christians is most severe. The map here lists all 50 countries that appear on the list, but you can find out some more specific details about the top ten at the posts 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

The Problem

North Korea

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

Afghanistan

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

Key trends and facts

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.

What you need to know: Key facts…

  • Worldwide, persecution is rising.
  • Over 260 million Christians experience high levels of persecution.
  • At least 9,488 churches and Christian buildings were attacked.
  • More than 3,711 Christians were detained without trial, arrested, sentenced and imprisoned.
  • Last year, at least 2,983 Christians were killed for their faith in Jesus Christ.

Want more detail…

In the World Watch List Top 50 countries alone, 260 million Christians face high or extreme levels of persecution, up from 245 million in 2019. What’s more, Open Doors estimates that there are at least a further 50 million Christians facing high levels of persecution in 23 countries that haven’t made it Into the top 50.

And the level of persecution is getting worse.

In 2020, 45 of the 50 World Watch List countries are places where Christians are at risk of very high or extreme levels of persecution. That’s five more countries than in 2019.

Altogether, 1 in 8 Christians worldwide face persecution measured as extreme, very high or high.

Throughout 2019 fewer Christians were killed for their faith, but more churches were attacked (partly due to China stepping up efforts to close churches).

In sub-Saharan Africa different radical Islamist groups are taking advantage of conflict, instability and poverty to set up home in states like Mali (29), Niger (50) and Burkina Faso (28). In these weak and fragile states many Christian communities are left without protection from their governments.

Women and girls have been especially vulnerable. In Pakistan (5), Nigeria (12), and Egypt (16) hundreds of Christian girls and young women – especially ages 13-20 – are abducted, raped and forcibly married and converted.

Christians in the Middle East are still facing tough times. Although some Christians in Syria (11) and Iraq (15) are beginning to rebuild their shattered communities, they remain at risk. There are signs that Islamic State is regrouping, while Iranian-backed Shiite militias continue to threaten, harass and intimidate Christians. And the Turkish incursion into north-eastern Syria has directly affected 40,000 or more Christians in the region.

But, prayer and action change things. In Pakistan in 2019, Asia Bibi, who spent eight years on death row on a false blasphemy charge, was finally flown to freedom in Canada. There she was reunited with her family, although they all still live ‘under the radar’ for their own safety. Her vindication and release was a much-needed encouragement for the country’s beleaguered Christian community. Finally, justice had been done.

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

Our 2020 World Watch List resources are pretty awesome - we have a new World Watch Map, plus a special session for a youth group to work though (make sure you grab the associated downloads too). If you're in the UK you can order all of these items in the post for free too (except the downloads folder) at opendoorsyouth.org/guts

Open Doors Youth 2020 World Watch List Map...
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World Watch List 2020 Youth Session...
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World Watch List 2020 Big Map (use with youth session)...
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World Watch List 2020 Youth Session Video: Mohan's Story...
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World Watch List 2020 Youth Session Video: The Top Five...
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World Watch List 2020 Youth Session Video: Kim Sang-Hwa's Story...
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World Watch List 2020 Youth Session Video: Algerian Church Raid...
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World Watch List 2020 Youth Session Extras: Algerian Youth Texts...
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World Watch List 2020 Youth Session Video: Eleanor's prayer journal...
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The Problem

Somalia

This East African country is No. 3 on the current World Watch List...
Give

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 raise money or give. Just £10 will bring hope by providing a Bible to a young Christian at risk of being persecuted for following Jesus. Check out Blackout our sponsored digital fast, or raise money doing something you love…

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

The Problem

Afiniki's story

Afiniki's life changed forever after a suicide bomber crashed into her church...
The Problem

Pasha's story

Pasha is a secret Christian in Iran who had an amazing dream where he met Jesus!
The Problem

Jong-Cheol's story

Jong-Cheol was an 11 year old North Korean boy who lived on the streets...
The Problem

Sofia's story

Sofia is from Colombia. When she was 9 her Mum and Dad were killed by rebels...
The Problem

Yohannes' story

Imagine being arrested simply for going to a mate's wedding...
The Problem

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.