Top 50 Countries Difficult to be a Christian—North Korea is Losing its Lead

2015 was the worst year for the persecution of Christians in the modern world. Open Doors analyzed countries and headlines from around the world to determine which places were the most challenging for Christians to live in. From ISIS attacks in Libya, Kenya and Egypt to fleeing refugees forced out of their homes to recent attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, the world feels less safe than ever. The 2016 World Watch List from Open Doors gives a list of 50 countries where it’s most difficult to be a Christian. Here are a few facts you should know:

  • Over 7,000 Christians were killed this past year for their faith. This number does not include deaths in North Korea and parts of Iraq and Syria where it’s difficult to acquire accurate numbers.
  • The number of churches attacked or damaged doubled from 2014 to amount to 2,400 churches in 2015. “More than 60 percent of the total number of churches attacked happened in China.”
  • Islamic extremism is to blame for this violence. It is “the lead generator of persecution for 35 out of the 50 nations on the list. Its two hubs are in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa, regions where persecution has risen to a level akin to ethnic cleansing,” Open Doors stated.
  • North Korea has been the most difficult country for Christians for 14 years in a row, but other countries are closing the gap. Christianity Today wrote, “Up to 70,000 Christians are in labor camps there.”
  • The Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa are “two hubs” for Islamic extremism. “In numerical terms at least, though not in degree, the persecution of Christians in this region dwarfs what is happening in the Middle East.”
  • Ever since 2012’s Arab Spring, persecution has risen and spread in Africa. “Sixteen of the 50 countries on the Open Doors World Watch List are African, a number greater than the 14 countries from the Middle East and Persian Gulf. When the list is expanded to 65 countries, a further nine African nations are added.”
  • In some places in the Middle East, like the ancient Syriac Christian town, Sadad, Christianity is nearing extinction. Consider “Iraq, where Christians are ‘on the verge of extinction,’ edged up from No. 3 to No. 2 with a score of 90.”

It’s important to remember, “Persecution of Christians is more than just physical violence. It’s a complex, multifaceted phenomenon that involves many aspects such as various forms of cultural marginalization, government discrimination, hindrances on conversion, hindrances on participation in public affairs and restrictions on church life,” stated World Watch Monitor.

Click here for an interactive map of the top 50 countries.
Click here for a full chart on all incidents of 2015.

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Esther Laurie
Esther Laurie is a staff writer at ChurchLeaders.com. Her background is in communication and church ministry. She believes in the power of the written word and the beauty of transformation and empowering others. When she’s not working, she loves running, exploring new places and time with friends and family. It’s her goal to work the word ‘whimsy’ into most conversations.

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