Source: Open Doors
The persecution of Christians is at its highest point in three decades, according to the latest report from advocacy group Open Doors. The World Watch List, released by Open Doors on 18 January, reported that, overall, the number of Christians facing persecution worldwide was approximately 360 million. One in seven Christians is persecuted for their faith, according to the report.
In a list of the 50 countries with the most persecution, North Korea returned to the first spot in 2022. The year prior, Afghanistan had landed in the top ranking following the Taliban's takeover of the country's government. Afghanistan ranks ninth in the latest list because the country's Christians have either been killed, fled, or are in strict hiding, according to Open Doors' Italian director Cristian Nani.
The other countries classified as having "extreme" levels of Christian persecution this year are Somalia, Yemen, Eritrea, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Iran, Sudan, and India. In sub-Saharan Africa, anti-Christian violence has reached "unprecedented intensity," the report says. Nigeria continues to be the epicentre of massacres with 5,014 Christians killed in 2022 Around 90% of kidnappings of Christians in 2022 also took place in Nigeria, where Nani said there is a kidnapping "business" taking place. He said an all-too-common scenario is the kidnapping of a Christian man's wife and daughters, who will frequently endure sexual violence and sex trafficking before they are released for a ransom.
The World Watch List also underlined continuing Christian persecution in China, which is No. 16 on the list. Tightening restrictions and increasing surveillance are putting Christians in China under intensifying pressure. New restrictions on internet and social media - together with the 2018 regulations on religion, which includes a ban on under 18s attending church - are severely limiting Christian freedom.
Iraq is number 18 on the list. Iraqi Christians experience discrimination, harassment and violent persecution, without protection from the state. In central and southern Iraq, many Christians choose not to display their faith in public to avoid harassment or discrimination at work, university or when trying to cross checkpoints. In the Nineveh Plains region, church leaders have been kidnapped in the past; those speaking out against local militias or political leaders are particularly at risk.
Pope Francis asked for prayers for persecuted Christians after his weekly public audience on 18 January. He said he was praying for Fr Isaac Achi, a Catholic priest who died after bandits set fire to his parish rectory in northern Nigeria on Sunday.