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.

2018 World Watch List

The 2018 Open Doors World Watch List ranks the 50 countries where persecution against Christians is most severe. North Korea is again at the top of the list. Afghanistan is only one point below it. India – the world’s largest democracy – has risen to its highest ever position of 11, as Hindu nationalists continue to attack other religious minorities. Islamic extremism continues to strangle the expression of the Christian faith, fuelling persecution in eight out of the top ten countries.

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
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 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

  • More than 200 million believers in the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian experience high levels of persecution because of their faith
  • Over 3,000 Christians have been killed for their faith in the 2018 reporting period, more than twice as many as in the previous reporting period.
  • Each of the top 11 World Watch List countries are now classed as places of extreme persecution – this is more countries than ever before in 26 years of the World Watch List

North Korea is number one again, but only just: For the 17th consecutive year North Korea is the most dangerous place in the world to be a Christian. But, tragically, other countries are catching up: only three persecution points separate the top three countries – North Korea, Afghanistan and Somalia.

Hindu and Buddhist Nationalism is sweeping across Asia: The rise in Hindu nationalism in India has spilled over into Nepal, which has leapt into the list at number 25. Buddhist nationalism drives much of the persecution in Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Myanmar.

Islamic State is on the move: As it is driven from Syria and Iraq, the so-called Islamic State (IS) has sought new homes. In the Middle East IS fighters have sought refuge in Turkey, Egypt and Libya. But IS support is also rising in Bangladesh. In the Philippines an IS-inspired group took over the city of Marawi, especially targeting the Christians.

Radical Islam is taking root in Africa: While violent jihadists continue to attack Christians in places like Egypt, Kenya and Nigeria, many Muslim majority countries are legitimising more radical models of Islam. The result is that believers in places like Sudan, Somalia and Tunisia have virtually no space to express their faith.

Women are easy targets: Gender-based violence continues to be a weapon of choice among Christian persecutors. Rape, abduction and forced marriage are frighteningly common in places like Pakistan, Egypt, Nigeria, CAR and even Kenya and India.

Christians are caught in the crossfire of the Islamic Sunni-Shia conflict: The under-reported conflict between Sunni and Shia Muslims is driving the fighting in places like Yemen and Iraq. But where Sunnis and Shias are fighting each other, the Christians suffer. They are easy targets, hated by both sides.

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. You can also order print versions of most of these resources for free on this dedicated page...

Open Doors Youth 2018 World Watch List Map...
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Guts and Courage 2018 Prayer Resource...
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World Watch List 2018 Youth Session Downloads: Leader Guide
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World Watch List 2018 Youth Downloads: Country flags
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World Watch List 2018 Youth Downloads: Guts and Courage Cards
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World Watch List 2018 Youth Downloads: Top Five Video
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World Watch List 2018 Youth Downloads: Fatima Video
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'Pray With Them' Guide (2017 resource... but still good!)
Download now...
The Problem


This East African country is No. 2 on the current World Watch List...
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

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.