The persecution of Christians in at least 18 countries throughout the world has been increasing, according to a new report.
The report, titled “Persecuted and Forgotten? A Report On Christians Oppressed For Their Faith 2020-22,” was released on November 16 by the Catholic group Aid to the Church In Need. It examined “human rights violations” in 24 countries where the persecution of Christians is “of particular concern” and revealed that the conditions in 18 of those countries have gotten “worse” or “slightly worse” for Christians.
“Religious nationalism and authoritarianism intensified problems for the faithful – including the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan, which prompted Christians and other minorities to attempt a desperate scramble to escape,” the report stated, explaining some factors behind the rise.
The 18 countries were mainly in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. They include China, Afghanistan, Turkey, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Mali, Nigeria, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Pakistan, Myanmar, Russia, North Korea, Vietnam, India, and Qatar. The results are from 2020-2022 and are compared with data from 2017-2019.
Each nation reviewed in Africa experienced declining conditions for Christians. The report attributes the persecution on the continent largely to “militant non-state actors” and Islamic extremism, citing specifically Boko Haram and the Islamic State West Africa Province. Nigeria is reportedly “on the brink of becoming a failed state” due to jihadism, facing kidnappings, attacks on churches, and priests being murdered.
As for the Middle East, migration has threatened areas the report describes as the “world’s oldest and most important Christian communities located in Iraq, Syria, and Palestine.” In 2011, before the war began, 10%, or approximately 1.5 million people in Syria were Christian. A decade later, there are 300,000 Christians, less than 2% of the population, the report says.
One of the primary drivers for the persecution of Christians in Asia comes from authoritarianism from the state, harshly affecting nations like China, Vietnam, and North Korea. “China continues to harass and attempt to control Christians and members of other religious groups that will not accept the official Communist Party line – making it unsurprising that in the Pew Forum’s analysis authorities’ restrictions on religion it achieved the highest score of any nation-state,” the report stated.
Open Doors USA, a Christian organization committed to serving persecuted Christians, releases a “World Watch List” annually outlining the top 50 countries where persecution of Christians is highest. According to the 2022 World Watch List, China ranks 17th for Christian persecution. Surveillance is a significant issue, allowing the state to monitor and close down churches, according to the organization. A source told Open Doors that pastors and Christian leaders “are simply snatched away, only to appear months later in a kind of house arrest, where they get re-educated.”
In Afghanistan, the country thrown into chaos last August when the U.S. completed a hasty withdrawal that ended with a collapse of the American-supported Afghan government, persecution against Christians is worsening. The report cites the rise of the Taliban “driving Christians underground,” where they “live in fear of arrest, torture, and execution.” Open Doors ranks Afghanistan number one on its watch list, listing Islamic oppression as the primary cause.
In 2022 there were 360 million Christians living in places where they were at risk for high levels of discrimination and persecution, according to Open Doors. Last year, 5,898 Christians were killed for being Christian, more than 5,000 churches or Christian buildings were attacked, and 4,765 Christians were “detained without trial, arrested, sentenced, or imprisoned.”