Whether they reside in Iran, China, Nigeria, or North Korea, the world is quickly becoming less tolerant of Christians.
According to findings from Open Doors' latest World Watch List (WWL) featuring the 50 least-safe nations to practice Christianity, the world has become a much more dangerous place for hundreds of millions of Christians.
"In the top 50 countries alone, 260 million Christians face a level of persecution measured as extreme, very high, or high," Open Doors announced over the weekend. "In total, one in eight Christians worldwide face persecution measured as extreme, very high, or high - a 6% increase from 2019."
Worship man, not God
Under Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un, the Hermit Kingdom's communist dictatorship only allows citizens to honor and bow down to the state.
"North Korea remains the most dangerous place for Christians, having been number one since the inception of the list in 2002," the global outreach serving the persecuted Church reported. "Something as simple as owning a Bible can mean a person is arrested and taken to one of the country's infamous labor camps – never to return."
In other communist, Islamic and Hindu nations, things aren't much better for those living out their faith in Jesus Christ.
For example, China is 23rd on the World Watch List. As the country with the world's largest population of 1.3 billion, it is leading the way in the proliferation of "digital persecution"; with the second-most populous nation, India – with 1.2 billion residents – having a Hindu-led government that is also using this high-tech ability to weed out Christians.
"China has begun to utilize AI and biometric measurement to increase their surveillance and control of religious believers – as seen with their surveillance of Uighur Muslims, [and] at least one major church now has facial recognition cameras to record worshippers' presence," Open Doors revealed. "India (10) is also set to make use of these technologies."
In sub-Saharan Africa, terrorism at the hands of Islamic fundamentalists is on the rise.
"A multitude of radical Islamist jihadist groups are taking advantage of instability and poverty to set up home in states like Mali (position in WWL: 29), Niger (50) and Burkina Faso (28)," the global ministry explained. "In these weak and fragile states, many Christian communities are left without protection by their governments."
Christianity a dying breed?
Senior Christian leaders in the Middle East – Christianity's birthplace – fear believers will become extinct in the region within a few years.
"There are signs that [the] so-called Islamic State is regrouping, and with tensions high in the region, Iranian-backed Shiite militias continue to threaten, harass and intimidate Christians," Open Doors noted. "And the Turkish incursion into northeastern Syria (11) has directly affected 40,000 or more Christians in the region."
On a regular basis, Christians are losing their freedom and their lives for their faith.
"Every day, an average of eight Christians were killed for their faith and 23 Christians were raped or sexually harassed for faith-related reasons," Open Doors informed. "Every week, an average of 182 churches or Christian buildings were attacked, and 276 Christian homes burned or destroyed, [while] every month, an average of 309 Christians were unjustly imprisoned for their faith."
With Pakistani Christian mother-of-five Asia Bibi being acquitted after her death sentence and Sri Lankan church bombings killing more than 250 last Christmas, when 11 Christians were beheaded in Nigeria, persecution is on the rise.
"People often suggest that the world has become a less tolerant place – especially for those who don't 'fit in': who aren't the 'right' race or creed," Open Doors UK and Ireland CEO Henrietta Blyth explained. "And you can see that trend in these latest figures too: yet again this year, the number of Christians facing persecution has gone up as the trend continues upwards."
"Persecution can come in many forms: from discrimination at work, to forced marriage, to imprisonment and execution. It can come from governments and militant terrorist groups. However, it can also come from a family member killing you for converting and bringing dishonor on the family in Malaysia (40) or reporting you to the authorities for owning a Bible in North Korea (1). Hundreds of millions of Christians are affected by this intolerance, and they simply don't feel safe practicing their faith."
Only a fraction of Christian persecution around the world is reported, and 50 million Christians living in the countries not included in the top 50 persecution list are also being harassed – or even martyred – for their faith.