Approximately 215 million Christians experience high, very high or extreme persecution for following Jesus. Nearly one of every 12 Christians in the world lives in an area, or in a culture, in which Christianity is illegal, forbidden or punished, new World Watch List by Christian foundation Open Doors denounces.
Countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East are intensifying persecution against Christians. Perhaps the most vulnerable are Christian women, who often face double persecution for their faith and gender.
Every day, six women are raped, sexually harassed or are forced into marriage to a Muslim under threat of death due to their Christian faith.
Research for the World Watch List documented 2,260 such incidences against women—and this number only covers those who had the courage to report such an incident, representing only a fraction of those actually raped and harassed in this way. Throughout this year, we’ve shared numerous stories of women, such as Debora in Nigeria, Rana in Iraq and Workitu in Ethiopia martyred for her faith, who have experienced dual persecution because they 1) believe in Jesus and 2) because they are female.
Once again, North Korea claims the number 1 spot–for the 16th consecutive year. With more than 50,000 Christians in prison or labor camps, the ranking comes as little surprise for the totalitarian regime that controls every aspect of life in the country and forces worship of the Kim family.
Perhaps Egypt’s most clear-cut case of anti-Christian violence was when an assassin asked a Coptic woman to help him cross off from his hit-list the names of her husband and son, whom he had just murdered. A spate of killings over the summer led a Cairo priest to describe the murder of Copts as “the most aggressive campaign against them in the history of modern Egypt”. In February the Islamic State group vowed in a propaganda video to “wipe out” Egypt’s Copts and “liberate Cairo”.
“Last year, 128 people were killed in Egypt simply for being Christian. For many more it is an act of quiet resistance to continue attending their churches – not to be scared into staying at home. The violent deaths hit the headlines, but the slow, suffocating discrimination and abuse Christians face every day goes unreported,” said Lisa Pearce, CEO of Open Doors UK and Ireland.
Other countries where persecution increased the most are also India, Libya, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Turkey. Pakistan saw the most violence recorded against Christians and Islamic extremism remains the global dominant driver of persecution, responsible for initiating oppression and conflict in many of the countries analysed by the charity foundation.
Country profiles here.