Christians around the world are facing the worst levels of persecution for their faith since persecution watchdog Open Doors began recording such acts nearly 30 years ago.
Open Doors' new 2023 World Watch List released this week showed that in 50 countries around the globe, Christians are facing record levels of persecution for their beliefs.
North Korea returned to the top spot on the list amid a jump in arrests of Christians under the country’s “anti-reactionary thought” law. The “anti-reactionary thought” law defines a range of behaviors considered illegal, such as listening to foreign radio and distributing “impure” foreign recordings or other media. The ban includes the Bible.
According to Religion News Service, in 2022, Afghanistan jumped to the top spot on the World Watch List after the Taliban regained control of the country and forced Afghan Christians to flee or go into hiding.
This year, Afghanistan fell to No. 9 in the ranking.
More than 360 million Christians globally reported at least high levels of discrimination and persecution in 2022, The Christian Post reports.
Wybo Nicolai, a former Open Doors global field director who launched the World Watch List in 1993, said the high level of persecution has nearly doubled since that first list.
The list analyzes the amount of pressure Christians and churches face in their private, family, community and national lives. It also looks at violence levels.
“It’s been a tremendous tool and very much welcomed, generally, by governments in the countries where we are mobilizing prayer support and advocacy because of that recognition that there’s an in-depth, deep dive, underground church, village-level picture and lens of what is happening in countries,” said interim Open Doors U.S CEO Lisa Pearce.
The top 10 on the 2023 list are North Korea, followed by Somalia, Yemen, Eritrea, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and Sudan. Sudan, No. 13 last year, is new to the Top 10.
“What we noticed is not just an increase of persecution, but also an increase in the size and the strength of the body of Christ. Yes, a lot of atrocities, a lot of drama; at the same time, a lot of church growth, as well,” Nicolai said.
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Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.