16 Christians murdered for following Jesus—every day

January 21, 2022 by Christopher Summers in Africa

Around the world, 16 Christians are killed each day, on average.

That’s nearly 500 Christians every month.

Men, women, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters. Just because they follow Jesus.

What staggering and sobering statistics.

Our research for the 2022 Open Doors’ 2022 World Watch List—the most in-depth investigative report focusing on global Christian persecution available—reveals that from October 2020 to September 2021, the number of Christians abducted, arrested and killed increased sharply.

This year, the total number of martyrs increased from 4,761 (2021 World Watch List (WWL)) to 5,898 (WWL 2022). Keep in mind this number is likely to be much lower than actual reality because, especially in closed countries like North Korea and Afghanistan, or conflict-ridden places like Somalia and Nigeria, killings are often done in secret and/or go unreported. No one in a North Korean prison camp or radical military leader in Nigeria is reporting the murder of a Christian. Yet Open Doors has talked to thousands of believers and refugees and Christians are dying for their faith—every day.

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Many Christians die because of their increased vulnerability in conflict, long-term deprivation of necessities and/or exclusion from socioeconomic aid.

Across the top 50 countries on the World Watch List, pressure is mounting. In 2022, all 50 countries registered a “very high” level of persecution for the second year in a row.

In fact, more than 360 million Christians suffer high levels of persecution and discrimination for their faith. That’s an increase of 15 million believers in only one year.

During the 2022 World Watch List reporting period (from October 2020 to September 2021):

  • 5,110 Churches or Christian buildings were attacked
  • 4,765 Christians were unjustly arrested, detained or imprisoned
  • 3,829 Christians were abducted for faith-related reasons.

That means each day, 14 congregations were attacked, 10 Christians faced the nightmare of kidnapping, and 13 Christians went through the trauma of unjust arrest, detainment and/or imprisonment.

Not only that, persecution against Christians has risen for 16 consecutive years.

Violence against Christians continues to spread in Africa

In many countries, the violence against believers is “subtle.” For instance, in India—once again No. 10 on the World Watch List—Open Doors partners have found that Christians are beaten, injured or chased away from their homes. But the reported number of Christian killings is limited. This number is likely higher and happens out of the public eye, impossible to verify.

But in Africa, the violence is extreme and public. Out of the top 10 most violent countries against Christians, seven are in Africa. The most violent of these countries is—once again—Nigeria, where 4,650 believers were killed this past year alone. That’s an average of nearly 13 Christians each day, meaning Nigeria accounts for nearly 80% of Christian deaths worldwide.

Christians are attacked indiscriminately and brutally in northern Nigeria, and the violence has continued unabated—one of the only places in the world where COVID-19 travel restrictions and lockdowns had little impact on attacks against Christians.

The attacks have also spread to southern Nigeria. Fulani militants and other violent actors have settled into southern forests, making it difficult for Christian farmers to access their land.

Increasingly in the South, the situation for Christian women and girls continues to be dire. Raids by Islamic extremist groups Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), Fulani militants and armed bandits have terrorized Christian communities. Women and girls have been raped, forced into sexual slavery, kidnapped for ransom and killed.

Christian men and boys are often specifically targeted and killed in attacks. Much of this violence takes place in Christian communities in rural areas and at roadblocks. Survivors of these attacks often face abduction and forced recruitment in militant ranks. Young boys risk being recruited as child soldiers, and there are reports of church leaders and church members being regularly abducted for ransom.

Pastor Jeremiah, whose church and village in northern Nigeria was attacked by Fulani militants, said: “We have cried to the government to intervene, but they have done nothing. We still pray for [the Fulani militants] to change their ways because some of them were forced into [attacking], while others had hardened their hearts to do this evil, but nothing is difficult for God.”

But it’s not just Nigeria. Sub-Saharan Africa continues to be the most violent place in the world for Christians, and the problem is only growing.

Fleeing violence because no place is safe

Though the 2022 World Watch List saw a slight decrease in violent attacks against Christians in Somalia, persecution remains extreme in the third most dangerous country for Christians. No place is safe (even the home) for a Christian, and pressure in every area of life is intense and unending.

Young female converts to Christianity remain one of the most vulnerable populations in Somalia. It is common for a Somali woman suspected of Christianity to be raped and humiliated in public, kept under strict house arrest, abducted, forcibly married to a radical Islamic sheikh or even killed. If she’s already married, she will likely be divorced and have her children taken away.

Somalia is a patriarchal society with high social control. Somali men and boys merely suspected of conversion to Christianity face extreme violations of their fundamental rights. They are at risk of being verbally abused, physically assaulted, losing their businesses, imprisoned, heavily threatened, tortured, abducted or being killed in abhorrent ways.

Similarly, Eritrea remains sixth on the World Watch List, making it still one of the hardest places in the world to follow Jesus.

Female converts from Islam can face abduction, house arrest, forced marriage, divorce or separation from their children. Whereas in many countries women are exempt from military service, in Eritrea, women are also subjected to obligatory military training and national service. Female conscripts are vulnerable to various forms of gender-based violence, including from prisoner guards and commanders. Many choose to flee the country in order to evade such a fate.

Since most underground church leadership positions are held by men, any arrests among them cause a leadership vacuum, as well as financial distress to families where they are the breadwinner. The impact extends to schools, where the children of pastors can be taunted and branded a “Pente,” a label which is considered shameful and can put the victim in danger.

Violence continued to rise in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burkina Faso, Mozambique and Cameroon, where Christians are targeted by violent Islamic militants. In sub-Saharan Africa, Christians are constantly in danger, and the problem is only growing.

They desperately need our prayers.

top photo: IMB.org

One Church, one Family

Please remember to pray for our brothers and sisters each and every day. By our prayers, we show we have not forgotten about them, and that we suffer with them. To help you pray, we created your FREE 52-week prayer guide to pray through all 50 countries—including a prayer for each day and short devotionals to help connect with persecuted believers.

photo: IMB.org

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