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Over 300m Christians Facing Severe Persecution

Tuesday January 21 2020

Over 300 million Christians worldwide are facing high or extreme levels of persecution for their faith, according to the charity Open Doors.

The organisation for persecuted Christians announced the finding as it released this year’s World Watch List, its annual ranking of the 50 countries where it is most dangerous to be a Christian.

It estimates that this year there are 260 million Christians in the 50 countries on the list (an increase of 15 million from last year) and a further 50 million in 23 countries outside the top 50 facing high levels of persecution.

The list is based on an analysis of faith-based persecution in five spheres of life, from private life to national laws, and the scale of violence Christians face.

North Korea remains at number one, as it has been since 2002. Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, Pakistan, Eritrea, Sudan, Yemen, Iran and India make up the rest of the top ten. Countries which have risen sharply include China (at 23), where churches are pressured and monitored by the state; Burkina Faso (28), where there have been radical Islamic attacks on churches, Christian schools and health centres; and Sri Lanka (30), where more than 250 people were killed in church attacks on Easter Sunday.

However, fewer Christians were confirmed killed for their faith in 2019 than in either of the previous two years, largely due to fewer murders in Nigeria. And the Open Doors report highlights hopeful signs in Sudan, thanks to the ousting of President Omar Al-Bashir, and Iraq, where over 1000 Christian families have been able to return to the Nineveh plain after Islamic State was driven out.

Henrietta Blyth, CEO of Open Doors UK and Ireland, said: “People often suggest that the world has become a less tolerant place - especially for those who don’t ‘fit in’: who aren’t the ‘right’ race or creed. And you can see that trend in these latest figures too: yet again this year the number of Christians facing persecution has gone up as the trend continues upwards.

“Persecution can come in many forms: from discrimination at work, to forced marriage, to imprisonment and execution. It can come from governments and militant terrorist groups. However, it can also come from a family member killing you for converting and bringing dishonour on the family in Malaysia or reporting you to the authorities for owning a Bible in North Korea.

“Hundreds of millions of Christians are affected by this intolerance and they simply don’t feel safe practising their faith.

“If we want the world to be a more tolerant, inclusive place, we simply can’t ignore the plight of these men, women and children. Whether we have a faith or not, this is about a fundamental human right being restricted. Ultimately, erosion of rights like these affects all of us.”

Read the full World Watch List report for 2020 here.

 


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