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The Top 10 Countries Where Christian Persecution is Most Severe

The Top 10 Countries Where Christian Persecution is Most Severe
Christians in many places around the world face persecution for their faith. These Christians know the truth of Jesus' words that those who follow Him must take up their cross. From Somalia to China to Iran to North Korea, Christ-followers have to choose daily to trust God and not allow the cares of the world and the threat of persecution deter them from having an eternal perspective. These Christians need our prayers, but in order to intercede for them, it may help to know more about them: where they live and what they face. Here are the top 10 countries around the world where Christians face the worst persecution. This list is drawn from Open Doors World Watch List for 2017.
  • 10. Eritrea

    The country of Eritrea, located in eastern Africa on the Red Sea, is a small country and not often talked about, but Christians living here face severe persecution. Religious freedom is a foreign concept and many Eritrean Christians have fled the country. 

    "The government’s treatment of Christian prisoners, thousands of whom have been arrested and imprisoned, has received a great deal of international attention. Many have been locked in shipping containers and died as a result," says a report from Open Doors which is working to provide aid and discipleship to Eritrean Christians.

  • 9. Yemen

    Yemen is located in the Middle East, below Saudi Arabia. It is predominately Muslim, with Christians making up less than one percent of the population. Yemen is also the poorest country in the Middle East. 

    "Sunni militant groups like al-Qaeda and Islamic State (IS) are using the chaos of war to gain territory, often targeting Christian believers. The country has seen political turmoil and violence since 2012 when the former president was ousted," reports Open Doors. 

    Yet, despite these struggles, "more Muslims are turning to Christ in Yemen than ever before."

  • 8. Iran

    Islam is the official religion in the country of Iran where Christianity is considered a Western influence and a threat to Islam. Christian converts from Islam face especially severe persecution in Iran.

    "Communities of expatriate or migrant Christians from Asia and the West sometimes experience forced church closures, while historical Christian communities made up of Armenian and Assyrian Christians are protected by law but are treated as second-class citizens. Arrest and violence are commonplace for anyone engaged in Christian ministry or evangelism," reports Open Doors.

  • 7. Iraq

    In Iraq, Iran's neighbor, Christians face similar threats from Islam. There has been a Christian presence in Iraq since ancient times, but in modern times the country has been dominated by Islamic extremism. Hundreds of thousands of Christians fled Iraq as refugees, but as the Islamic State's terroritory shrinks, some are beginning to return

    "Historical Christian communities and Protestant Christian communities are seriously affected by persecution, especially from radical Islamic movements, authorities and non-Christian leaders. Communities of converts to Christianity from Islam suffer severely from persecution, especially at the hands of family, but also from the above mentioned persecutors if their faith is known," reports Open Doors.

  • 6. Syria

    Syria's citizens have been caught in a civil war that has raged on for nearly six years. While government factions and rebels wage war, many of Syria's Christians pay the price.

    "The overall situation in Syria is characterized by heavy persecution of all types of Christians in areas held by IS and other Islamic militants," according to Open Doors.

    Most Christians in the country belong to Catholic or Orthodox churches.


  • 5. Sudan

    Open Doors notes that in Sudan, Christian persecution is "systematic and reminiscent of ethnic cleansing." Christians face frequent arrests and attacks by radical Muslims in the country.

    Sudan has been on the World Watch List every year for 24 years and nearly always ranks within the top 20 countries. 

    "Arrests, attacks and murders plague all Christian communities in the country, particularly those living in the Nuba mountain region," according to Open Doors.

  • 4. Pakistan

    Pakistani Christians are often persecuted under the country's strict blasphemy laws which prescribe harsh punishments for anyone who disrespects Islam. Christian converts from Islam are often ostracized and attacked. 

    "There are multiple groups of Christians experiencing persecution in Pakistan. Historical Christian communities exist openly, but have to put up with stringent rules and constant monitoring, while Christian converts from Islam suffer the brunt of persecution from both radical Islamic groups and families and neighbors. Protestant Christian communities are under close scrutiny and suffer frequent attacks, especially when they are active in outreach amongst Muslims," reports Open Doors.

  • 3. Afghanistan

    In Afghanistan, Christian converts also face harsh persecution. Families, friends, and communities often unite to exert pressure on the converts. Open Doors reports that some Christian converts are even forced to go to mental hospitals due to the belief that no one in their right mind would convert to Christianity.

    Since Islam is viewed as a unifying force in the country, anyone who defies Islam is severely persecuted. "Severe pressure on believers, resulting from Islamic oppression, is exerted mostly by families, friends and community, but also by local religious leaders," says Open Doors.

  • 2. Somalia

    Somalia, which is on Africa's eastern tip, below Eritrea, is predominantly Muslim. According to the Pew Research Center, 99.8 percent of Somalians are Muslim. The small number of Christians in Somalia are often marginalized and persecuted. 

    Like Sudan, Somalia has been on the World Watch List for 24 years. Islam is firmly established in the country and it is difficult for Christianity to take ahold. "Christians have absolutely no voice in society," reports Open Doors.

  • 1. North Korea

    The country where Christian persecution is most severe of anywhere in the world is North Korea. It is the only country in the top 10 that is not Muslim. Instead, North Korea's totalitariam regime makes practicing Christian faith very risky. It is estimated that thousands of Christians are enslaved in North Korea's labor camps. Reports have surfaced of the brutal torture some Christians face, such as being crucified or burned.

    "In this totalitarian communist state, Christians are forced to hide their faith completely from government authorities, neighbors and often, even their own spouses and children. Due to ever-present surveillance, many pray with eyes open, and gathering for praise or fellowship is practically impossible. Worship of the ruling Kim family is mandated for all citizens, and those who don’t comply (including Christians) are arrested, imprisoned, tortured or killed," reports Open Doors.


    Please use this list as a reminder that Christians around the world, but particularly in these countries, are in desperate need of prayer.

    Content courtesy of Open Doors World Watch List.

    Photos courtesy of: Thinkstockphotos.com

    Publication date: January 18, 2017