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‘Shocking’ jump in number of Christians facing persecution in 2018

For the first time, India, the second largest country in the world, has entered the top ten list of countries where Christians face the worst persecution. Credit: Piviso/Flickr/Public Domain

For the first time, India, the second largest country in the world, has entered the top ten list of countries where Christians face the worst persecution. Credit: Piviso/Flickr/Public Domain

According to figures released by Open Doors, the persecution of  Christians took a massive jump last year stating that 30 million people were added bringing the number of Christians vulnerable to persecution to 248 million, a 13.9% increase over 2017.

Open Doors described this year-over-year increase in persecution as “shocking.”

But it is part growing trend of Christian persecution seen around the world seen in recent years. Five years ago, Open Door only had one country on its severe persecution list and in 2018, there are now 11.

Part of the 2018 jump is due to increased persecution of Christians in two of the world’s largest countries, China and India. In fact this past year India joined the top ten list of most dangerous countries for Christians for the first time. This was primarily due to the rise of persecution of Christians by radical Hindus, who believe it is non-Indian to join other religions.

The change in China has been equally dramatic as it jumped from 43 spot in 2017 to 27th in 2018 as the Chinese government led by Xi Jingping recently took a sharp turn back to atheistic communism. This has resulted in the government bringing in more laws to restrict Christians and the closing down of several large churches. Christians are saying this is the worst persecution they have experienced since 1976 when Mao’s cultural revolution resulted in the deaths of nearly 70 million people.

According to Open Doors, the list of the top ten countries where Christians face the most persecution in 2018 were:

  1. North Korea considers converting to Christianity an act of treason. Those that are not killed for their faith are sent to brutal concentration camps for punishment and retraining. North Korea has topped the persecution list for 18 years.
  2. Afghanistan is governed by Islamic law and it is against the law for anyone to be a non-Muslim. Converting to Christianity often results in death or commitment to an insane asylum because they believe anyone converting to Christianity must be insane.
  3. Somalia is 99% Muslim but what makes it extremely difficult is that the rule of law has broken down in the country with large parts of Somalia being ruled by Islamic warlords who dispense brutal justice against any Christians they come across.
  4. Libya, similar to Somalia, has fallen into anarchy with Islamic militia groups persecuting Christians at will. As well, Christians face extreme pressure from their families when they leave Islam.
  5. The Islamic Republic of Pakistan is not only ruled by Sharia law, but it has also instituted blasphemy laws that its citizens routinely abuse by lying and accusing Christians of blasphemy when involved in personal or legal disputes.
  6. Sudan is considered an Islamic state and has brought in laws severely restricting the rights of religious minorities. Several Christians have been arrested and many churches have been destroyed. Christians are particularly vulnerable in the more isolated areas of the country.
  7. Eritrea is also considered an Islamic state and has raided several house churches, arresting Christians. Reports tell of police placing Christians inside metal shipping containers for punishment which is brutal treatment because of the country’s high temperatures.
  8. Yemen is in the midst of a civil war for several years. And because of this radical Islamic groups are able to take advantage of the situation and target Christians. As well, these radical groups control relief aid coming into the country and often refuse to dispense it to Christians.
  9. Iran’s Islamic government considers Christianity an attempt by the West to undermine its authority. Christian leaders are often sentenced to long jail terms after being charged with “crimes against national security.” It is illegal for any Muslim in the country to convert to Christianity.
  10. India (previously discussed).

Open Doors noted that Islamic extremism was to blame for persecution of Christians in seven of the countries in its top ten list.

However, there is some good news in the midst of all this. One Muslim country, Bahrain, managed to move itself off Open Doors watch list of 50 countries. A small country located on the Persian Gulf, Open Door had Bahrain on the list because of restrictions it was putting on citizens of other faiths in terms of public worship and even sharing their faith.

But recent changes in the country have resulted in increased freedoms to Christian, Jews and other faiths to worship freely in their country.

At a Washington, D.C. news conference held January 16, 2019, Open Doors USA CEO David Curry commended the Royal family of Bahrain stating:

“Thank you to the royal leaders and the royal family of Bahrain and the government there for what they have done in the last several years. I think it could be a model within that region for how it could be done.”


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