5 updates on the World Watch List halfway into 2022

August 2, 2022 by Tim Dustin in Persecution updates

We started off the year with the release of our World Watch List, an extensive ranking of the 50 most dangerous countries for Christians to live in. Now, just over six months into 2022, how are Christians fairing in these countries? Are situations improving . . . or are things getting worse?

1. COVID explodes in No. 2 North Korea and slows hidden deliveries

North Korea continues to be a place of severe persecution: Any Christian found out in North Korea immediately risks imprisonment, brutal torture and/or death. An estimated 50,000 to 70,000 Christians are imprisoned in North Korea’s notorious system of prisons and labor camps. And so far this year, things have only gotten worse for Christians.

COVID has exploded in North Korea—officials have shared publicly that the COVID pandemic has reached their people. The admission likely comes after two years of reports that North Koreans are dying from the “ghost disease” (a term used by North Koreans to describe COVID). Because North Korea’s government strives to maintain a façade of superiority and only makes public announcements when the situation is desperate, it’s widely believed that the pandemic is now ravaging the country.

With North Korea in severe lockdown, our field workers are doing everything they can to help underground believers through this crisis. We’ve heard word that North Koreans are paying several months’ salary for a single bag of rice. Despite travel regulation and surveillance, which makes it nearly impossible to get food, clothing, medicine and other necessities to believers, field workers are planning tirelessly to get all they can to underground believers who make it to our networks in China.

The explosion of COVID is acting as a roadblock for those who need the deliveries most.

2. The Taliban has banned education for girls in No. 1 Afghanistan

Afghanistan took the top spot in the World Watch List for the first time. With the Taliban takeover, for Christians on the ground, it’s become impossible to openly live their faith.

Over the past six months, Christians have gone completely underground. The Taliban are hunting down Christians town to town, door to door. However, for the Taliban, that kind of behavior and remorse towards Christians is nothing new. What came as a great shock earlier this year, though, is when the Taliban publicly reneged on their statement that would allow girls to attend school.

All girls, sixth grade and up, are now no longer allowed to attend classes. Hana Nasri*, an Open Doors’ frontline partner in the region, stressed the goal of reversing the course on women’s education: to disempower women. “Girls going to school could be empowering for them,” she says, “and the Taliban doesn’t want that. The Taliban wants to rob women of agency. Young girls just stay at home. There are no opportunities for them.”

Until the Taliban is out of power, opportunities for women and Christians in general appear to be at an all-time low, with no sign of improvement.

3. No. 10 India takes steps to outlaw Christian conversions

India continues to be a place of extreme persecution for Christians, and the persecution is only intensifying; Hindu extremists aim to cleanse the country of their presence and influence. The driving force behind this is Hindutva, a radical ideology that disregards Indian Christians and other religious minorities as true Indians because they have allegiances that lie outside of India. An increasing number of extremists assert the country should be purified of Christian presence.

Since the beginning of the year, in keeping with Hindutva, steps have been taken in certain Indian states to outlaw Christian conversion. The government of Karnataka, a state in southwestern India, has fast-tracked the implementation of an anti-conversion bill. The results of such a bill could mean fines, prison sentences or worse for anyone converting from Hinduism to Christianity.

Christians urged their local government to reject the bill, but their pleas were met with silence. Not only that, attacks against Christians are on the rise with an average of 73 Christians day facing abuse for their faith. A local partner told Open Doors, “Levels of hostility have increased sharply since the state government started pushing the anti-conversion law. [They’ve used] disinformation and hate speech to incite violence and discrimination, fanning the flames.”

It’s only a matter of time to see if other Indian states adopt this heinous law.

4. An “unholy handshake” leads to more violence in No. 7 Nigeria

Last year, Nigeria claimed the title of “Christian murder capital of the world.” In fact, last year in Nigeria, on average, a Christian was tragically murdered for their faith every two hours, resulting in 4,650 believers killed. Out of all Christians deaths at the hands of others, 80% of them came from Nigeria. Just over six months into 2022, Nigeria is on pace to match—and even exceed—that amount.

The stories of violence and persecution in Nigeria continue to pour in. Just some of the headlines this year read: “50 Nigerian Christians murdered and priest kidnapped”; “Nigerian church leaders and two boys kidnapped by extremists”; “Nigerian student brutally murdered for sharing Jesus,” among painful others.

And what’s more disturbing is that these extremist groups, once separate and even in battle with each other, are now forming alliances. Groups like Boko Haram, Islamic State in West Africa Province, Fulani herdsmen, bandits and gangs are reportedly coming together and coordinating their attacks on Christians and anyone who does not adhere to their strict interpretation of Islam.

The violence is ramping up to only get worse.

5. Christians in No. 9 Iran face prison sentences for their faith

In 2021, it became abundantly clear that the Iranian government saw the growth of the church as an attempt by Western countries to undermine Islam and the Islamic regime. House groups made up of converts from Muslim backgrounds were often raided, and both their leaders and members were arrested, prosecuted and given long prison sentences for “crimes against national security.”

So far into 2022, it’s been much of the same. There have been several high-profile cases of both women and men being arrested for, as one believer put it, being “just Christians reading the Bible.” Those being prosecuted in these cases haven’t taken up arms or decried the government; they’ve simply lived their own faith lives, but that’s been enough for them to face years in prison.

Iran continues to be a place where Christians are seen as second-class citizens and enemies of the Muslim world.

Today Christians all over the world are pressured, arrested, attacked and killed for their faith.

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Our Christian brothers and sisters around the globe are in desperate need of our prayers. Let’s pledge to remember them each day and lift them up in prayer before our good Father. We live in a violent, hostile world, where in so many countries just being a Christian is seen as a threat or virus that needs to be crushed as quickly as possible.

Let’s remember to pray for the countries listed above, as well as all Christians who face persecution. Let’s show them we are all one family in Christ, and if one suffers, we all do.

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