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Persecution in world’s two most-populous countries escalates to troubling levels

Global org releases annual list of worst religious persecution offenders

WASHINGTON — The 2019 Open Doors World Watch List reveals disturbing revelations for the world’s two most populous countries—India and China—which have seen a dramatic increase in the persecution against Christians. As they are each home to more than a billion people, even an incremental rise in persecution has an outsized, exponential impact in these countries. China jumps a shocking 16 spots on the Open Doors World Watch List from No. 43 to No. 27, while India enters the top 10 list for the first time. Russia, which last appeared on the list in 2011, enters at No. 41. (Note: An additional news release detailing Russia will be sent on Jan. 17.)

In India, Hindu nationalists fueled a crackdown on Christians and churches, promoting the widespread oppression of religious minorities. The situation has deteriorated rapidly in the last several years, as non-Hindus are increasingly regarded as outsiders in their own country. In some areas, this has translated to brutal violence against Hindus who have converted to Christianity. The situation in India is volatile, and religious minorities in particular face extremely dangerous situations with mobs of violence breaking out and demanding death sentences.

China’s dramatic rise in 16 spots from last year’s ranking is one of the highest jumps on the list. The heightened power of the Chinese government is being wielded to remove any challenges to the absolute authority of President Xi Jinping, even if those challenges are related to personal faith in a god other than the State. New regulations and government crackdowns have made open worship increasingly risky, particularly in certain regions of the country. Pastor Wang Yi’s recent arrest along with some 150 Christians is a recent indicator of the expanding level of control and religious persecution.

In its 27th year, the list—which is the world’s definitive assessment of religious persecution based upon in-depth, rigorous analysis of on-the-ground, first-person research—remains a global indicator of where human and religious rights are being violated, and those countries most vulnerable to societal unrest and destabilization.

Overarching Trends of Persecution Against Christians Globally
Across the 50 countries on the Open Doors World Watch List, it is estimated that more than 245 million Christians now experience high, very high or extreme persecution, an increase from 215 million in 2018.

During the reporting period for this study, in the top 50 countries on the World Watch List, 4,136 Christians were killed for faith-related reasons; 2,625 Christians were detained without trail, arrested, sentence and/or imprisoned; and 1,266 churches and other Christian buildings were attacked—an increase in all three areas from last year.

Overall religious persecution against Christians has increased as the threshold was higher for a country to make the list. Using a proprietary, 100-point assessment scale and newly improved research methods, investigators uncovered an alarming rise in countries scoring 41 points or higher that still did not rank among the top 50 worst nations. (Points are given for each incident of persecution, and the total points provide the ranking for each country.) Twenty-three countries—compared to just eight last year—had this dubious distinction, with the majority (13) of these countries in sub-Saharan Africa, a reflection of the deteriorating situation for Christians in that region, where radical Islamic militant groups operate with near-impunity.

This year’s Open Doors World Watch List does, however, contain some good news, including in Iraq and Malaysia, which showed the most significant improvements compared to last year’s report. Iraq, which saw a decrease in persecution around private, family, community, national and community life mostly due to the territorial defeat of ISIS, moved from No. 8 to No. 13. Recently Iraq also declared Christmas a national holiday. Malaysia—which saw an unprecedented 2018 election victory by the Pakatan Harapan, the country’s federal opposition prior to the election, that raised hope among minorities—moved from No. 23 to No. 42.

“Open Doors continues to see ominous persecution trends against Christians,” said David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors USA. “Islamic radicalism continues to dominate and influence all spheres of life for Christians, and we are watching China and India very closely. The distressing impact of billions of people living in an environment in which the government oppresses freedom of religion is unraveling day by day as millions of Christians are being attacked, imprisoned or killed. Open Doors will continue to walk alongside these Christians and advocate on their behalf for human rights we take for granted in America.”

Quick Facts

  • One in every nine Christians in the world experiences high levels of persecution for their faith.
  • One in every six African Christians experiences high levels of persecution for their faith.
  • One in every three Asian Christians experiences high levels of persecution for their faith.
  • North Korea tops the list for the 18th year in a row.
  • Algeria had the highest year-over-year increase in persecution against Christians.
  • Russian Federation and Morocco are newcomers to this year’s list.
  • Islamic oppression fuels persecution in eight of the top ten countries on the 2019 Open Doors World Watch List.
  • Bahrain and Djibouti fell out of the top 50.
  • Pakistan and Nigeria had the most violence recorded against Christians, with Central Africa Republic close behind.
  • Iraq and Malaysia showed the most significant improvement since last year.

Top 10

  1. North Korea
  2. Afghanistan
  3. Somalia
  4. Libya
  5. Pakistan
  6. Sudan
  7. Eritrea
  8. Yemen
  9. Iran
  10. India

Persecution at a Glance
Christians remain one of the most persecuted religious groups in the world. While persecution of Christians takes many forms, it is defined as any hostility experienced as a result of identification with Christ. 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.

Media Resources

Methodology
The Open Doors World Watch List is the only comprehensive, annual survey of the state of religious liberty for Christians around the world. From Nov. 1, 2017, to Oct. 31, 2018, researchers measured 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. Points are given for each incident of persecution, and the total points provide the ranking for each country. For more information on the methodology of the Open Doors World Watch List, please visit OpenDoorsUSA.org.

About Open Doors USA
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. Christians are one of the most persecuted religious groups in the world and are oppressed in at least 60 countries. For more information, visit OpenDoorsUSA.org.

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