Persecution against Christians on the rise globally

February 15, 2020

World Watch List reveals where it's most dangerous to believe in Jesus.

Last month, Open Doors International, a non-government organisation that supports persecuted Christians around the world, released its 2020 World Watch List (for the 12 months ending 31 October 2019) that annually reveals the top 50 countries where it’s most dangerous to believe in and follow Jesus.


The key findings of the list include: 

  • 260 million Christians in the top 50 countries alone experience a high to extreme level of persecution.

  • Christians in 34 countries experience a very high to extreme level of persecution. This is up from 29 countries the previous year.

  • One in eight Christians worldwide face persecution measured as extreme, very high or high — a 6 per cent increase from 2018.

  • Persecution is going digital, with surveillance cameras, facial recognition software and biometric systems used to monitor and target Christians. 

North Korea remains the most dangerous place for Christians, having been number one since the inception of the list in 2002. Something as simple as owning a Bible can mean a person is arrested and taken to one of the country’s infamous labour camps, never to return. Currently, between 50,000 and 70,000 Christians are in labour camps in North Korea.


Despite not ranking in the top 50 last year, the fastest riser on the list was Burkina Faso at #number 28. Due to increasing Islamic extremism in the sub-Saharan region of Africa, a multitude of radical Islamist jihadist groups are taking advantage of instability and poverty to set up home in states like Bukino Faso, Mali (#29) and Niger (#50). In these weak and fragile states many Christian communities are left without protection by their governments.


Sri Lanka rose significantly, from #46 in 2019 to #30, largely due to the church bombings that took place on Easter Sunday last year. The coordinated attacks claimed the lives of hundreds of Christians as they gathered to celebrate Easter.


“The 2020 World Watch List once again shows that the cost of following Jesus is increasing the world over as both violent and non-violent acts of persecution increase,” says Mike Gore, CEO of Open Doors Australia and New Zealand. “Now, more than ever before, the global body of Christ needs to stand united, both parts serving the other, and together helping each other to follow Jesus all over the world, no matter the cost.”


To view the World Watch List in full, visit:

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Vol. 139, No. 14 // 11 April 2020

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