As you might expect, many countries on the top 10 of the 2021 World Watch List heavily restrict access to God’s Word and other Christian materials. North Korea and Afghanistan—ranked Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, on the 2021 World Watch List (WWL)—both have the highest possible intensity of restriction on Bibles. Yemen, also in the top 10 at No. 7, also has this highest number. This means, in practice, that most, if not all Christians, are prevented from publicly owning, reading or distributing Bibles—and in private, the options are not much better.
Other places may be surprising. For instance, Brunei, though ranked No. 39 on the 2021 WWL, has the highest possible intensity of restriction on the private ownership of Christian materials. That means, for believers in Brunei, even having a copy of God’s Word in their own home can invite persecution. Bibles are banned from being imported, and Christians who access electronic versions of Scripture must be very careful to avoid any accusations of spreading Christianity. It’s another instance of a place where the Bible is not forbidden but is so heavily monitored that it’s difficult for God’s people to gain access to His Word.
Click here to download the 2021 World Watch List
In other places, like Sudan, Iran and the Maldives, in the last year, churches have had Bibles and religious literature confiscated and/or have been punished for possessing Bibles and other Christian materials. Again, each of these countries (along with North Korea, Afghanistan and Yemen) scored very high on this point.
For instance, in Iran, a believer from a Christian ethnic group—Assyrians, for instance—may easily have a Bible in Assyrian for home use. But if a Christian who converted from Islam is found to have a Bible in Persian, the national language, they could risk imprisonment and torture. It’s proof that even when God’s Word is technically “legal,” it can still be taken at any time, and the owners arrested. It just depends on who has the Bible and why.