Levels of Christian persecution are at a record high globally, according to watchdog organization Open Doors, who announced the 2021 World Watch List today via press conference. A comprehensive research-based report, the annual World Watch List ranks the top 50 countries where it is most dangerous to be Christian – and exposes startling shifts in the landscape of global religious persecution.
This year’s report reveals that more than 340 million Christians now suffer high levels of persecution for their faith, representing 1-in-8 Christians worldwide.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has turned a bad situation into an unbearable one,” said David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors USA. “This public health crisis created an opportunity to expand faith-based discrimination and violence in regions where religious persecution had already reached alarming rates.”
Due to ongoing and increasing surveillance and censorship of religious minorities, China re-entered the top 20 for the first time in a decade. New data show China’s surveillance state is used to persecute Christians and other religious minorities, such as Uighur Muslims. The Chinese Communist Party is not only normalizing these technologies within their borders, but exporting them to authoritarian regimes around the world.
“This goes beyond where you’re going to church or where you’re going to temple, to what it is you’re writing about on your phone,” said Dr. Chris Meserole, Director of Research and Policy of the Brookings Artificial Intelligence and Emerging Technology Initiative. “There’s no country that can match the sheer scale of surveillance technologies that China has developed and also deployed.”
For the first time in the 29-year history of the World Watch List, every country in the top 50 is ranked as experiencing very high or extreme levels of persecution.
In 2020, extremist attacks spread further throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, from Nigeria and Cameroon to Burkina Faso, Mali, and beyond. In Nigeria alone, 10 Christians a day are murdered on average due to their religious beliefs. As the total number of Christians killed for their faith rose 60 percent for the year—from 2,983 registered cases (WWL 2020) to 4,761 (WWL 2021)—91 percent of the violent killings for religious reasons occurred in Africa. The report reveals that 1-in-6 Christians in Africa endure faith-based discrimination and violence.
2021 World Watch List Top 10
- North Korea
To view the complete 2021 World Watch List report, visit ODUSA.org/WWL. For immediate access to the World Watch List press kit, including country-specific data, expert interviews, firsthand accounts, and images, visit https://www.opendoorsusa.org/religious-freedom-newsroom.
About Open Doors USA: For more than 60 years, Open Doors USA has worked in the world’s most oppressive and restrictive countries for Christians. Open Doors works to equip and encourage Christians living in dangerous circumstances with the threat of persecution and to mobilize the Western church to pray and advocate for the persecuted. Christians are one of the most persecuted religious groups in the world and are oppressed in at least 60 countries. For more information, visit OpenDoorsUSA.org.