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