The Problem

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

What if faith in Jesus would land you in prison? What if being a Christian meant being bullied and picked on, having to do church in secret or even being marked down at school? What if your family threw you out because of your beliefs, or owning a Bible was illegal? What if following Jesus meant a life of violence and threats?

What if you chose to believe in Jesus despite the cost?

340 million Christians around the world experience systematic discrimination, unfair treatment and persecution. That’s one in every eight Christians globally. They choose to follow Jesus despite the fear of arrest, prison, rejection, threats and violence. Across Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America, millions of Christians live with the reality of persecution, simply because they choose to shine God’s love and light.

This matters. Our relationship with Jesus connects us to these millions of 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.

2021 World Watch List

The 2021 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

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...

World Watch List 2021: Key trends

The church is alive. The church is active. The church is growing. And that’s why the church is persecuted.

The persecution of Christians is getting more severe than ever, affecting increasing numbers of believers around the world. This overview of persecution trends will help give you a better understanding of the situation, and equip you to pray for your brothers and sisters following Jesus no matter the cost.

Persecution continues to rise

For the first time since Open Doors started compiling the World Watch List, all top 50 countries score at least ’very high’ levels of persecution. Twelve countries are categorised as having ‘extreme’ levels of persecution, up from 11 the year before. And there are another 24 countries scoring ‘very high’ or ‘high’ levels of persecution that don’t even make it into the top 50.

Covid-19 is used as a weapon by persecutors

Open Doors research reveals the extent to which Christians are being specifically excluded from receiving Covid-19 aid. Incidents have been recorded across Asia and Africa – where vulnerable believers are deliberately neglected by local authorities when food is distributed, Christian nurses are denied vital PPE, and some Christians are even baselessly blamed for the spread of the virus.

Violence against Christians rises dramatically in sub-Saharan Africa

Of the top six countries where Christians experience the most outright violence, five are in sub-Saharan Africa. Nigeria – which re-entered the top 10 for the first time since 2015 – saw the most violence against Christians in 2020, with armed Fulani militants killing, burning, kidnapping and raping with impunity. Islamist violence is also why Cameroon rose to 42 from 48, and why Democratic Republic of Congo (40) and Mozambique (45) are new entries to the top 50.

Authoritarian governments increase surveillance and restrictions

Increasingly, countries are using modern surveillance methods to monitor citizens for their own ‘protection’ and ‘security.’ In China (up to 17 from 23) a mix of new laws and increased surveillance have propelled it back into the top 20 for the first time in a decade.

Religious nationalism continues to fuel persecution

Since the 2016 attempted coup against President Erdogan, Turkey (25) has pursued a much more open Islamist and nationalist agenda. Increasing violence and intolerance directed towards Christian minorities sees it rise 11 places. In India (10), rising Hindu nationalism continues to claim that ‘to be Indian is to be Hindu’.

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 2021 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

Open Doors Youth 2021 World Watch List Map (coming Feb 2021)...
Download now...
World Watch List 2021 Youth Session (coming Feb 2021)...
Download now...
The Problem


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

Help solve the problem

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

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