Almost one in 12 Christians in the world lives in a place where practicing their religion is forbidden or even punishable under the law, according to the 26th annual "World Watch List" report. Compiled by Open Doors USA, the list ranks the top 50 countries where Christians are most severely persecuted. North Korea tops the list for the 16th year in a row, but the report concludes that Islamic extremism "remains the global, dominant driver of persecution."
"Christians throughout the world continue to risk imprisonment, loss of home and assets, torture, beheadings, rape, and even death as a result of their faith," the report states.
The report states that approximately 215 million Christians now experience high or extreme levels of persecution. This number may be overinflated given Open Door's vague and broad definition of persecution, which includes "any hostility experienced as a result of identification with Christ." Even still, the situation faced by millions of Jesus-followers around the world is dire.
According to Open Doors USA, here are the top 12 most dangerous countries for Christians:
- North Korea
- Saudi Arabia
It's possible that recent American foreign policy has contributed to a worsening of the the situation faced by Christians in these places.
In the wake of American-waged wars, Iraq (#8) and Afghanistan (#2) have experienced increased religious oppression. Libya (#7) has become a hotbed for Islamist terrorism after American military demolished its government. Four countries among the top 12 are included in President Trump's travel ban, and relations with Pakistan (#5) are strained due to his administration's attempt to block millions of dollars in aid. The president recently brokered trade and weapons deals with Saudi Arabia (#12).
Regardless, Open Doors reports that Christian oppression globally is intensifying at an alarming rate. Of the 50 countries listed, more than 30 saw a notable increase in persecution during the reporting period.
The Open Doors report is a sobering reminder of that persecution is real and often overlooked in the places it actually exists. While American Christians are a privileged majority, their brothers and sisters in many places are a persecuted minority.