Afghanistan surpasses North Korea as #1 most dangerous place to be a Christian

By Danielle Jarvis
Afghanistan woman

Afghanistan has topped the list of most dangerous places to live, according to the annual 2022 World Watch List, compiled by Open Doors.

For the past 30 years, Open Doors has released the list, which reveals the 50 most dangerous countries to be a Christian, to help increase global awareness of the persecution and discrimination people face for practising their faith.

According to the NGO, Afghanistan is now the number one most dangerous country in the world to be a Christian. Since 2000, North Korea has been at the top of the list but for the first time in 20 years, a new country has taken the number one spot, according to the World Watch List 2022 released today.

Over the past 20 years North Korea has grown increasingly worse for Christians, countless individuals have lost their lives for practising their faith and whole families have been sent to forced labor camps. But even as persecution has increased in North Korea, it has become more extreme for Christians living in Afghanistan.

This year Afghanistan is the most dangerous country in the world to identify as a Christian as all Christians were forced into hiding or were killed following the Taliban takeover in August 2021. Afghanistan was already number 2 on the World Watch List, as freedom of religion was not prioritized by the former regime. Converting from Islam is forbidden and Christians who are discovered face certain death.

Right now, Christians in Afghanistan are being hunted down and their names are known to the Taliban. They are living are under deplorable conditions and are forced to stay in hiding, operating completely underground. Many Christians have fled to rural regions, or refugee camps in neighbouring nations – all of which are countries hostile to Christians.

Mike Gore, CEO of Open Doors Australia and New Zealand says, “It is significant to witness Afghanistan take the place of North Korea (picture above) as the most dangerous country for Christians to practice their faith. Many Christians have been forced to flee or risk death at the hands of the Taliban.

“Bringing to light the persecution of Christians remains the work of Open Doors for the foreseeable future. Our goal is to equip and strengthen the global Church to stand courageously for Jesus.”

Key Findings:

For the first time in 20 years, Afghanistan is now the #1 most dangerous place in the world to be a Christian

Afghanistan replaces North Korea which had sat at the top of the World Watch List for the past 20 years and has just reached its highest recorded levels of persecution

Around the world 360 million Christians experience a high to extreme level of persecution in more than 50 countries. That’s 1 in 7 worldwide.

Persecution of Christians has reached the highest levels since the World Watch List began nearly 30 years ago.

The World Watch List 2022 reveals in the top 50 countries how Christians face a level of persecution measured as extreme, very high or high. In total, more than 360 million Christians worldwide face persecution and discrimination measured as extreme, very high or high.

Released each year, ranking the top countries where the persecution of Christians is most extreme, the World Watch List is the most authoritative of its kind. The list accounts for the 12 months from 1 Oct 2020 to 30 Sept 2021.

The list and its methodology are audited by the International Institute for Religious Freedom.

World Watch List 2022, Top 10:

North Korea

The fastest riser on the list was Niger from #54 to #33. The biggest risers also included:

Qatar rises to #18 from #29 as a result of the closure of the majority of house churches. After COVID-19 restrictions were lifted, many house churches that had once been tolerated were forced to stay closed. Converts from Islam to Christianity remain under very high pressure from the Qatari government and Qatari society.

Myanmar rises to #12 from #18 as violence intensifies since the military coup. In parts of the country, the army loots and destroys churches and homes with impunity. The military fear Christian gatherings could be a focus for opposition and have attacked and killed pastors and helpers in IDP camps. Converts face strong pressure from family and community.

Indonesia rises mainly due to the deadly attacks against Christians in Sulawesi. In November 2020, two assassins tried to get into a church in Sulawesi. They were challenged and failed, and blew themselves up, injuring 20. In May 2021, still in Sulawesi, four Christians were beheaded by Islamic extremists. Many arrests of Muslim extremists followed, and in September security forces killed their leader. Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim country. And attitudes are becoming more conservative.

Cuba – first time on the list since 2012. An increase in both pressure in all spheres of life and violence caused the overall score to rise by 4 points. The dictatorial regime intensified its action against all Christian leaders and activists opposing Communist principles, especially after the widespread demonstrations which occurred in July 2021. Government measures included arbitrary fines, close surveillance, denials of licenses and religious visas, arrest and physical/mental abuse.

“The release of the annual World Watch List once again demonstrates the level of persecution millions of Christians face around the world each day,” Gore continues.

View the full list here.