2019 World Watch List: The Usual Suspects + Some Surprises

Other Findings From the 2019 World Watch List

According to the 2019 list, an estimated 245 million Christians face “high,” “very high” or “extreme” persecution. That figure, up 30 million from 2018, means one of every nine Christians worldwide experiences high levels of persecution.

The new list reveals “ominous” trends, says Curry, Open Doors president. During the reporting period—October 31, 2017, to November 1, 2018—4,136 Christians were killed because of their faith, 2,625 were detained or imprisoned, and 1,266 churches and Christian buildings were attacked. All three categories saw increases since 2018.

For the 18th year in a row, North Korea tops the list as the most dangerous country for Christians. Alarmingly, the world’s two most populous nations, India and China, have become much more hostile to believers. India now ranks at #10, due to a crackdown against Christians and churches by Hindu nationalists. China soared 16 spots to #27, largely because of government crackdowns against unregistered churches.

Another key finding is that Christian women face “double persecution”—for their faith and gender—in 33 countries. These women “are targeted specifically for their faith and often are helpless to demand justice,” says Curry. “As the United States continues to focus on improving the lives of American women, let us not forget those who cannot even have a man arrested for violence against them.”

The spread of radical Islam across sub-Saharan Africa also is threatening the safety of Christians. Although Boko Haram has stayed out of the headlines lately, Open Doors reports that breakaway groups enslave Christian women and girls “as an integral part of their strategy.”

Two nations fell off the top-50 list this year: Bahrain and Djibouti.

Open Doors has published its annual World Watch List since 1992. The purpose, says Curry, is to “shine a light on the strength and the suffering of the family of God around the world [and] to drive all of us to our knees in prayer and then to our feet to stand with our brothers and sisters.”

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Stephanie Martin
Stephanie Martin, a freelance journalist, has worked in Christian publishing for 27 years. She’s active at her church in Lakewood, Colorado, where she lives with her husband and two teenage daughters.