More than 365 million, or one in seven, Christians face high levels of persecution for their faith – and persecution is becoming dangerously violent in countries on the 2024 World Watch List.
The Christian advocacy group Open Doors reported that attacks on churches and Christian properties sky-rocketed in 2023, as more Christians than ever recorded faced violent attacks.
Open Doors monitors persecution and supports the Church in more than 60 countries.
It released its World Watch List 2024 on Jan. 17, documenting trends and ranking the 50 worst countries in the world when it comes to Christian persecution.
Thirteen Christians a day were killed for their faith in 2023, on average – a total of 4,998.
Nigeria remains the deadliest place to follow Jesus; 82% of killings happened there.
The number of attacks on churches and Christian-run schools, hospitals and cemeteries exploded in 2023, up seven-fold compared to the previous year.
It was driven by mob violence in India, church closures in China, and attacks in Nigeria, Nicaragua and Ethiopia.
At least 10,000 churches closed in China in 2023.
"Most were house churches but official churches are under pressure too. New regulations mean churches must display signs reading, 'Love the Communist Party, love the country, love the religion,'" said the report.
Digital surveillance is growing, with Christians in one province required to register on a state-controlled app before attending church services.
Still, once again, North Korea is the most dangerous place in the world for Christians says Open Doors.
Being discovered as a follower of Jesus is effectively a death sentence there in that north Asian country.
In 2023, North Korea strengthened its border with China so it's now harder for Christians to flee and harder for support to reach them, noted Open Doors.
- VIOLENCE IN SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA
Political instability, war and extremism has been creating a perilous situation for Christians in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Amid lawlessness, jihadist groups like al-Qaeda and Boko Haram have thrived. Weak governments fail to stop them. And militants attack Christian communities and churches with impunity.
Most Christians murdered for their faith in 2023 were killed in Sub-Saharan Africa. Nigeria accounted for nine out of 10 religiously-motivated murders.
Christians were also killed in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Burkina Faso, Cameroon and the Central African Republic (CAR).
Many more Christians have also been forced from their homes. Of 34.5 million displaced people across Sub-Saharan Africa, around 16.2 million are Christians.
- CHURCHES FACE ATTACK
More than 14,700 churches or Christian properties such as schools and hospitals were targeted in 2023. It marked a six-fold increase compared with attacks recorded the previous year.
In China, at least 10,000 churches were closed, while in India, violent mobs raided Christian properties.
And in Algeria, where there were 47 official Protestant churches, only four remain open where they now face intense pressure.
"These attacks put huge pressure on Christian communities, sparking fear and insecurity. Even if believers do regroup in smaller numbers, they have limited leadership and few resources," said Open Sources
- FORCED FROM HOME
In 2023, more than twice as many Christians were forced to flee their homes compared to the previous year. Political instability, war, extremism and natural disasters have all driven believers from their homelands across the Middle East and North Africa.
Believers are often more vulnerable than other displaced people because of their faith.
In countries such as Syria, Christians are easy targets for violence. Extremists attack churches and leaders and put pressure on Christians to move on, notes the report.