Afghanistan has supplanted North Korea as the world's most dangerous country for Christians, according to an annual watchdog report that says conditions have gone from bad to worse following the Taliban's 2021 takeover.
The Open Doors 2022 World Watch List places Afghanistan as No. 1 among the top 50 countries where it is most dangerous to be a Christian, followed by North Korea, Somalia, Libya, and Yemen. Among other notables: Iran is No. 9, Iraq No. 14 and China No. 17.
Most of the countries on the list are located in South Asia and North Africa.
It is the first time Afghanistan has been number one. David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors, told Christian Headlines that it's the most "seismic shift" in the report's history. The situation in North Korea, he said, has not improved. Rather, conditions in Afghanistan have gotten worse.
"With [the Taliban] controlling the entire region," Curry said, "Christians have left the country – and those that have stayed are either in hiding or on the run."
The report lists the number of Christians in the country as in the "thousands."
"It is impossible to live openly as a Christian in Afghanistan," the report says, warning that believers face likely death if they are found.
The Taliban's promises of a more free society, Curry said, haven't proven to be true.
"The Taliban is trying to roll this out as Taliban 2.0," Curry told Christian Headlines. "But even as of today, there's nearly 4 million children that are out of school – 60 percent of them are girls. That promise was broken.
"... From the first day they seized control, they got a list of prominent Christians [and] they began going door to door trying to find them. So, we know what they're doing on the ground. And then none of it has to do with anything that would be recognized as a democratic system or a fair system."
The world, Curry said, must take "decisive action" to "prevent a religious genocide against Christians." That includes, he said, accepting refugees.
"These are people who, if sent back, will likely be killed," Curry said. "... That's the first and most pressing human rights issue."
The World Watch List, Curry added, is filled with countries whose governments collapsed and are ruled by extremists. Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya and Eritrea, he said, are examples.
"This is a tipping point into other chaotic issues that people of all faiths are going to be forced to deal with [such as] terrorism and the drug trade," Curry said. "The drug trade in Afghanistan is going to go through the roof with their opium trade because it will be the only economically sustainable crop for many people. So you're going to go through a number of issues because [the U.S.] decided to handle this transition in such an insecure way."
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Keith Binns
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.