World Watch List 2024 reveals rise in Christian persecution

Persecution is most common in Asia, worst in North Korea and most violent in Sub-Saharan Africa

The number of Christians across the world who are suffering persecution and discrimination because of their faith has risen to 365 million, according to the latest global index released by Open Doors.

The World Watch List 2024 reveals that now one in seven Christians worldwide face high levels of persecution and discrimination for their faith, with the total number of Christians being persecuted rising by 5 million in the last 12 months.

“In many countries, there is no safe place for Christians.” – Adam Holland, CEO of Open Doors ANZ

The CEO of Open Doors Australia and New Zealand (ANZ), Adam Holland, said the rise of Islamic extremism and autocratic regimes was unleashing a new wave of violence against Christians.

“In many countries, there is no safe place for Christians, with attacks on Christian churches, schools and hospitals rising seven-fold and attacks on the homes of Christians spiking 371 per cent in the past year,” Holland said.

Key findings

The number of Christians killed in faith-related attacks last year was almost 5000, but the death toll was likely to be much higher with so many killings going unreported or deliberately hidden.

World Watch List 2024 shows particular violence in sub-saharan Africa

A child in Ethiopia shows her Bible.

The rate of persecution and discrimination against Christians is highest in Asia, where two in five Christians are suffering. Of the 50 countries where persecution and discrimination are worst, North Korea ranked first, ahead of Somalia, Libya, Eritrea, Yemen, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sudan, Iran and Afghanistan. Violent persecution was most acute in Sub-Saharan Africa, where most Christian killings were perpetrated.

Persecution of Christians in India and China, two of Australia’s key trading partners, is rising sharply:

A seven-fold increase in church closures

Across the globe, the World Watch List 2024 research documented a seven-fold increase in church closures, with India and China being two of the largest contributors to that trend. Holland said that persecution of Christians in India and China, two of Australia’s key trading partners, is rising sharply: “Tragically, we saw a nine-fold increase in the number of Indian Christians killed, with the number of deaths rising from 17 last year to 160 in 2023. And the number of attacks on churches and Christian schools spiralled from 67 last year to 2228, while attacks on houses doubled to 180.

“In addition, China closed thousands of churches during and after Covid-19, through a set of old and new authoritarian measures,” Holland added. “Large unregistered ‘house churches’, which had been meeting in hotels or office blocks, have been forced to splinter into a myriad of less visible house groups, and many of the venues for state-approved churches were forced to close and merge with larger churches.”

World Watch List 2024

In contemporary Australia, there is a real temptation to think of ourselves as “persecuted” Christians, perhaps especially when we strive to live for God counter-culturally.

Indeed, many of us do face pain and trouble as we take up our crosses and follow Jesus. We need not compare or delegitimise the suffering we endure in his name.

Yet, as Stephen McAlpine points out in his 2019 book on cultural engagement, Being the Bad Guys, we also must not lose sight of the intense suffering of our brothers and sisters overseas. In fact, we should care about (and pray for!) persecuted Christians around the world for at least five reasons.

The World Watch List is based on the levels of violence, the degree of government restrictions and the amount of social hostility towards Christians. It uses extensive research, data from Open Doors field workers, their in-country networks, external experts and persecution analysts to quantify and analyse persecution worldwide.

A copy of the Open Doors World Watch list 2024 is available here.

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