More than 360 million Christians around the world suffer high levels of persecution and discrimination for their faith, according to Open Doors’ 2023 World Watch List, which was released Jan. 17.
The list, which Open Doors has compiled annually for 30 years, ranks the 50 countries in which it is most difficult to live as a Christian. In addition, it reports overall statistics and worldwide trends.
“In 1993, Christians faced high to extreme levels of persecution in 40 countries,” the report says. “This number has nearly doubled to 76 countries in 2023. In the top 50 alone, 312 million Christians now face very high or extreme levels.”
During 2022, according to the report, 5,621 Christians worldwide were killed for their faith, with 90% of these killings occurring in Nigeria.
Between 2011 and 2021, the terrorist groups Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) murdered more than 40,000 Christians in Nigeria, in addition to thousands more killed by Muslim Fulani herdsmen, according to a 2021 report by Genocide Watch.
Despite the killings and persecution by militant Muslim groups, the Biden administration’s State Department in December neglected for the second straight year to designate Nigeria as a “Country of Particular Concern,” over the objections of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).
The Open Doors’ List ranks Nigeria as the sixth-worst country for the persecution of Christians. North Korea, Somalia, Yemen, Eritrea and Libya take the top five spots on the list.
Overall, the report found that the sharpest increase in persecution came in Latin America, with Mexico, Colombia, Cuba and Nicaragua all rising substantially in the rankings. Corruption and ineffective governments have allowed criminal groups and ethnic leaders to drive persecution. And in Cuba and Nicaragua, “repressive governments are intensifying efforts to suppress those they deem opponents to their rule. In Nicaragua especially, the silencing of Christians has become increasingly apparent, with churches that speak out against injustice and human rights violations by the government viewed as destabilizing agents.”
On a positive note, the report said that several of the Persian Gulf states, such as Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, showed progress toward greater religious freedom.
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