Annual World Watch List Highlights Scale of Global Persecution of Christians

January 28, 2021

The annual World Watch List from Open Doors documents the 50 countries where persecution of Christians is the most severe. 

According to the 2021 World Watch List, more than 340 million Christians live in countries where they might suffer high levels of persecution and discrimination for their faith, and it documented 4,761 Christians killed for their faith and 4,488 Churches or Christian buildings attacked over the past year. 

As Jeremy Barker, RFI’s Middle East Action Team Director said in an interview,  “In places with extreme persecution, it is often a combination of a failure of governments to protect the rights of all citizens linked with extremist ideologies that drive persecution of vulnerable individuals and communities.”

The 2021 World Watch List noted several concerning trends

  • Persecution continues to rise: with all 50 countries ranked “very high” for the first time.

  • COVID-19 is used as a weapon by persecutors: including reported neglect and exclusion from humanitarian assistance.

  • Violence against Christians rises dramatically in sub-Saharan Africa: five of the six most violent countries and more than 90% of documented killings were in Africa.

  • Authoritarian governments increase surveillance and restrictions: crackdowns on basic rights, monitoring of churches and communities, often under the guise of “security.” 

  • Religious nationalism continues to fuel persecution: Whether in the Middle East or South Asia, nationalist identities often drive the marginalization of Christians and other minorities.

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