340 Million Christians Persecuted Worldwide

January 15, 2021

More than 340 million Christians experience high levels of persecution and discriminations. That’s 1 in 8 Christians, worldwide. Every day, on average, 13 Christians are killed.

It may be surprising, but Christian persecution around the world is one of the biggest human rights issues of this era. More than 340 million Christians live in places where they experience high levels of persecution and discrimination.

That’s 1 in 8 Christians, worldwide, 1 in 6 in Africa, 2 out of 5 in Asia, and 1 in 12 in Latin America, as stated in the 02021 World Watch List (WWL), the annual report on the global persecution of Christians issued by Open Doors (an international mission supporting persecuted believers worldwide since 1955).

In the 2021 WWL reporting period (October 2019 – September 2020), more than 340 million Christians suffer high levels of persecution and discrimination for their faith, of which 309 million suffer very high or extreme levels. Released at the beginning of each year, the WWL ranks the top 50 countries where Christians are persecuted for their faith, and uses data from Open Doors field workers and external experts.

The 2021 report reveals disturbing new trends including an opportunistic expansion of extremist violence from Nigeria into Sub-Saharan Africa (Cameroon, Burkina Faso, and Mali), a significant leap forward of China in the list, and implications of technology’s increasing role in the persecution of religious minorities. According to the WWL, the confluence of covid pandemic and technology in 2020 had ominous consequences across the globe, opening avenues for the spread of violence, discrimination and oppression against religious minorities, and gave rise to a surveillance state.

In 2020 covid pandemia acted as a catalyst for justification for increasing surveillance and censorship (Chinese censorship systems continue to propagate and spread to emerging surveillance states), and religious persecution through relief discrimination (in Ethiopia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Vietnam, and the Middle East; in India 80% of those receiving aid from Open Doors reported being excluded from official distribution for faith-related reasons).

North Korea ranks #1, as the world’s worst persecutor of Christians, for the 20th consecutive year. Nigeria entered the top 10 for the first time due to reaching the maximum violence score. And China has re-entered the top 20 due to ongoing and increasing surveillance and censorship of Christians and other religious minorities.

The total number of Christians killed worldwide rose from 2,983 registered cases (WWL 2020) to 4,761 (WWL 2021). This is an increase of 60%, and 91% of the killings were in Africa – the main share was from Nigeria.

The total number of Christians abducted increased from 1,052 (WWL 2020) to 1,710 (WWL 2021). This is an increase of 63%, and the 90% of abductions were in Africa – the main share was, once again, from Nigeria.

Regarding Christians raped or otherwise sexually harassed for faith-related reasons, the percentages in Africa (49%) and Asia (49%) were nearly the same. The main shares were from Nigeria and Saudi Arabia. And forced marriages of Christians to non-Christians in Asia (72%) were far higher than in Africa (28%), and the main share was in Pakistan.

Lastly, some eloquent data: in 2020 4,761 Christians were killed worldwide, 4,488 Churches or Christian buildings attacked, 4,277 Christians unjustly arrested, detained or imprisoned, and 1,710 Christians abducted. It means that every day, on average, 13 Christians are killed worldwide, 12 Churches are attacked, 12 Christians are unjustly arrested, detained or imprisoned, and 5 Christians are abducted.

Open Doors International
Full Report “2021 World Watch List – The Top 50 Countries Where It’s Most Difficult to Follow Jesus”