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2018 World Watch List: Christian Women Persecuted Most

Christian Women

North Korea remains the worst persecutor of Christians in the world, Afghanistan is close behind at number two, and Christian women are specifically endangered, according to Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List.

Because of North Korea’s increased global exposure, most aren’t surprised to find that Orwellian, 1984-style tactics of the government make it the most dangerous country for a Christian to live in. More surprising to many is the rise of Afghanistan to number two, only one point behind North Korea.

“Never before have the top two countries been so close in incidents,” said David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors USA. Both countries are extreme in intolerance and outright persecution of Christians in every area Open Doors monitors.”

Christian women


Open Doors also reports that every day six women are raped, sexually harassed or forced into marriage to a Muslim under threat of death due to their Christian faith. This only represents cases where the women were brave enough to report the incident. The actual numbers are likely much higher.

“Increasing numbers of women face a double blow today—violent attacks against them because of their Christian faith, and because they are women,” the organizer of an international conference on persecution told Christianity Today. Her name was withheld to protect her safety. “Furthermore we see this heartbreaking issue in the Central African Republic, Nigeria and Iraq, the rejection of women from their communities and their husbands extends the pain and suffering for women.”


Open Doors’ World Watch List is the only global, comprehensive attempt to detail Christian persecution. Researchers measure the degree of freedom a Christian has to live out his or her faith in five spheres of life—private, family, community, national and church, plus a sixth category measuring the degree of violence. Forty-eight of the 50 countries on the list are located in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, with Mexico and Colombia the only outliers. Many of the top countries share traits in common, specifically a non-existent or impotent central government overseeing a population filled with radical Islamic extremists. Such is the case in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan now meets the same level of persecution as North Korea in five out of the six areas. This is a tragedy considering the efforts being made by the international community to help rebuild Afghanistan are failing to ensure freedom of religion,” Curry said. “It is hard for westerners to imagine a second country could nearly meet the levels of persecution seen in North Korea, but Afghanistan has reached that level this year.”


According to Open Doors’ research, the 10 countries who are the worst persecutors of Christians are:

  1. North Korea (94 points)
  2. Afghanistan (93 points)
  3. Somalia (91 points)
  4. Sudan (87 points)
  5. Pakistan (86 points)
  6. Eritrea (86 points)
  7. Libya (86 points)
  8. Iraq (86 points)
  9. Yemen (85 points)
  10. Iran (85 points)

Since last year Syria dropped out of the top 10 down to number 15, while Libya jumped back on the top 10 at number seven. 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 equips the Western church to advocate for the persecuted. To learn more about how you and your church can get involved, visit www.opendoorsusa.org.

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Josh Pease is a writer & speaker living in Colorado with his wife and two kids. His e-book, The God Who Wasn't There , is available for purchase on Amazon.