New World Watch List Reveals Statistics on Persecution of Christians and Top 50 Dangerous Countries for Christians

World Watch List 2023: Violence against Christians and control over churches is increasing - Top 5 most dangerous countries: 1. North Korea, 2. Somalia, 3. Yemen, 4. Eritrea, 5. Libya
Open Doors: Level of violence against Christians has reached a new high in recent years - 30 years Open Doors World Watch List (1993 – 2023)
Open Doors) The extent of violence against Christians has reached a new high in recent years, reports Open Doors, the international aid organization for persecuted Christians. 
360 million Christians around the world suffer high levels of persecution and discrimination for their faith.
 2,110 churches and Christian buildings were attacked last year.
5,259 Christians were abducted last year.
At least 5,621 Christians were murdered for their faith during the October 1, 2021 to September 30, 2022 
reporting period of the new World Watch List. Violence against them has increased significantly, particularly in Nigeria (rank 6) and across sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, increasing authoritarianism and ideological nationalism are exacerbating the persecution and discrimination that severely affects Christians in 76 countries.

30 years World Watch List - A shocking development

The Open Doors World Persecution Index (WVI) has been published annually since 1993. It shows the persecution and discrimination against Christians in the 50 countries where it is most dangerous for them to live and profess their faith. Christians are killed or imprisoned, harassed by authorities and systematically disadvantaged, beaten, kidnapped, sexually abused, forced into marriage or forced to flee their homes and countries.
In the 30 years that Open Doors has compiled the World Persecution Index, the global spread of persecution of Christians has increased at an alarming rate.
- Worldwide, more than 360 million Christians suffer at least a »high« degree of persecution and discrimination because of their faith.
- In 1993, Christians in 40 countries faced "high" to "extreme" levels of persecution. That number has almost doubled to 76 countries in 2023.
- In the 50 countries listed in the WVI alone, 312 million Christians are exposed to a "very high" or "extreme" level of persecution.
- Today, one in seven Christians worldwide is subject to at least a “high” level of persecution or discrimination, including one in five in Africa, two in five in Asia and one in fifteen in Latin America.

The ten most dangerous states for Christians – North Korea is back in 1st place
After the Taliban murdered numerous Christians for their faith from August 2021 and drove thousands to flee, Afghanistan took first place at the WVI 2022 for the first time. During 2022, the Taliban focused more on wiping out those with ties to the old regime than on uprooting the very small number of remaining Christians.

However, the situation for Christians in the country remains extremely dangerous. However, for the WVI 2023 it was mostly not clear whether the Taliban murdered people because of their ethnicity or cooperation with Western armed forces and NGOs, or because they were Christians. Clear evidence of persecution because of faith was often not available. Therefore, the number of documented acts of violence remained low, as did the number of points in the WVI. Afghanistan is currently ranked 9th there.
The life of many Christians who have fled to neighboring countries is very uncertain. "Our situation is desperate," reports Zabi, a Christian Afghan refugee. »My mother and I managed to get across the border to another country. I pray that I can leave this country and go somewhere safe. I may have to go into hiding or I will be deported back to Afghanistan. If that happens, I could be killed."
Meanwhile, the Taliban, desperate to keep the country running, are keen for foreign workers, such as doctors or engineers, to work in the country. The religious affiliation of foreigners is not so strictly monitored, which also affects the overall assessment of the persecution.
North Korea returns to No. 1, where it has been since WVI 2002, except for the last reporting period. With 98 points, the country achieved the highest value since the beginning of the documentation; since the introduction of the new "law against reactionary ideas" more house churches have been discovered and Christians arrested. Arrest means execution or life in one of the cruel camps for political prisoners, where detainees are given little food, tortured and experience sexual violence.
“Christians have always been at the forefront of the regime's attacks. Their aim is to exterminate all Christians in the country. There can only be one God in North Korea, and that is the Kim family,” says Timothy Cho, a North Korean refugee, describing the desperate situation of Christians.
Nigeria and Sub-Saharan Africa: A catastrophe is spreading across the continent
Sub-Saharan Africa faces a massive humanitarian catastrophe as a wave of sectarian violence originating in Nigeria (#7) sweeps across the region, killing Christian populations in countries like Burkina Faso (#23), Cameroon (#45 ), Mali (#17) and Niger (#28) at an alarming rate. Militant Islamic fighters are using extreme violence to destabilize the entire region. It remains most extreme in Nigeria, where fighters belonging to Fulani, Boko Haram, Islamic State of West Africa (ISWAP) Province and other Islamist groups are raiding, killing, maiming, raping and kidnapping for ransom or sexual slavery Christian communities. The number of sectarian killings in Nigeria has dropped to 5 from 4,650 last year.
Jihadist violence has become commonplace across sub-Saharan Africa, with 26 countries in the region experiencing very high levels of persecution. There are also clear signs of spreading jihadism in Mozambique (#32), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (#37) and other countries. The Islamist terror campaign is fueled by a deadly mix of human trafficking, climate change and an influx of foreign mercenaries.
"The whole region is headed for disaster," says Frans Veerman, head of World Watch Research, Open Doors' research arm. "The aim of ISIS and its affiliated groups is to destabilize the entire region and establish an Islamic caliphate - ultimately across the continent - and in the long run they believe they can achieve that. They are supported in this by other Islamists who rely on non-violent, systemic Islamization. It is not just governments in Africa that are failing to face the true nature of this sectarian purge, but governments around the world. The price for this refusal is incalculable, not only for Africa but for the whole world.«
Authoritarianism in China and other countries aims for total control of the churches
Autocratic regimes like China (#16) rely on total control of all church life, which they want to stifle with strict laws and ideological nationalism. A law from March 2022 only allows churches and NGOs that are licensed and therefore system-compliant to distribute religious content on the internet. As a result, many Christians are denied access to the online worship services, which have been increasingly carried out since the pandemic, as well as to Christian teaching materials and the Bible. Violators are punished with high prison sentences. China was again the country where most churches and religious institutions were destroyed or closed. Christians meet in house churches to avoid surveillance.
In addition, China is pursuing an international campaign to redefine human rights, away from traditional, universally accepted terms towards more subjective "rights" such as livelihoods, development, and security. (Illustrated in a speech by the Chinese foreign minister to the UN Human Rights Council in 20211.)
In India (#11), anti-conversion laws in 12 states now expose Christians to arbitrary arrests, up to 10 years imprisonment are possible. Even a national law is planned. In the current reporting period, more than 1,700 Christians have been imprisoned for this reason. On the other hand, attacks on Christians by radical Hindus continue to be the order of the day. They often incite people in the immediate vicinity, and the resulting mob very brutally attacks and abuses Christians, destroying homes and businesses. In most cases, however, neither the perpetrators nor the instigators are punished.  
The increasing authoritarianism of governments in Latin American countries, combined with an increasingly hostile attitude towards churches and the Christian faith, propels Nicaragua (#50) onto the World Watch List for the first time, but also in Colombia (#22), Mexico (#38) and Cuba ( #27) the situation for Christians has greatly deteriorated. In Nicaragua and Cuba, for example, church leaders are being put under pressure and arrested, surveillance is being stepped up, registrations and permits are being refused, and buildings are being confiscated. Organized crime has taken hold in many Latin American countries, particularly in rural areas, where Christians who speak out against the cartels' activities are being repressed.
Struggle for existence of the church in the Middle East
The Christian Church in the Middle East continues to shrink. It failed to recover after the rise of Islamic State, although the number of Christians killed has declined in recent years (an exception is Syria (#12), which experienced a wave of violent attacks during the WVI 2023 reporting period). "This is the cradle of Christianity and much of the Church is losing hope - the hard diet of discrimination and poverty is too hard to bear, especially for the young people who see no future as believers here," explains Rami Abed Al -Masih, Advocacy Regional Manager for the Middle East and North Africa, on the dramatic development.
TOP 50 with very high and extreme pursuit
Approximately 5.1 billion people live in the 50 countries of the World Persecution Index (WVI), including around 737 million Christians, of whom around 312 million are exposed to very high to extreme levels of persecution and discrimination. Using an index score, the countries are assigned to the persecution categories “extreme” (81-100 points), “very high” (61-80 points) and “high” (41-60 points).
Top Ten in WVI 2023 (Rank in WVI 2022 in brackets)
     North Korea (2)
     Somalia (3)
     Yemen (5)
     Eritrea (6)
     Libya (4)
     Nigeria (7)
     Pakistan (8)
     Iran (9)
     Afghanistan (1)
     Sudan (13)
Source: Open Doors