On Wednesday, Jan. 4, Open Doors will release its annual 2012 World Watch List of 50 countries that are the worst persecutors of Christians around the globe.
For the past 10 years, North Korea has topped the list. Last year Iran was No. 2 followed by Afghanistan. Several countries might climb on the list, including Nigeria (No. 23 last year), Sudan (No. 35 last year) and Egypt (No. 19 last year) due to increased persecution during the last few months of 2010 and most of 2011.
According to preliminary statistics released by Open Doors researchers this week, Nigeria had a total of 300 confirmed martyrs in 2011, Egypt at least 60 and Iraq 38. Open Doors defines a martyr as one who loses her or his life as a result of identification with Jesus Christ. The highest number of martyrs was probably in North Korea, but due to its isolation and secrecy, no numbers are available.
The World Watch List ranks countries according to the intensity of persecution Christians face for actively pursuing their faith. It is compiled from Open Doors’ indigenous contacts, field workers and persecuted believers based on answers to questions covering various aspects of religious freedom.
The list helps Christians in the West to advocate and pray for persecuted believers worldwide.