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World Watch Report: Alarming Global Rise in Violent Acts Against Christians

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Worldwide, 365 million Christians face persecution or discrimination for their faith in Christ.

Each year, Open Doors U.S. unveils its annual World Watch List detailing the worst persecutors. This year's report focuses on alarming persecution trends in Africa and one impoverished nation not far from the United States.

The usual countries of concern top this year's World Watch List: North Korea is the top persecutor of Christians, followed by Somalia, Libya, Eritrea, and Yemen – home of the Iranian-backed Houthi militia, the terrorist group attacking ships transiting the Red Sea.

Open Doors U.S. CEO Ryan Brown said the greatest concern is the rising tide of violence worldwide against followers of Christ, especially by Islamic and autocratic regimes in sub-Saharan Africa.

"Christians can become easy targets for those that are looking to create instability within those environments," Brown explained. "They can do so with impunity, that they've received no consequence for those actions. Because again, Christians are not often protected or recognized by the governments in those areas."

The report documents that 4,998 Christians died for their faith in 2023, but many deaths might go unreported. That's compared to 5,621 the previous year. 

Christians stand inside a church building torched by an angry Muslim mob in Jaranwala near Faisalabad, Pakistan, Aug. 17, 2023. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)
Christians stand inside a church building torched by an angry Muslim mob in Jaranwala near Faisalabad, Pakistan, Aug. 17, 2023. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)

Although the overall global death numbers are down, Open Doors found that more than 82% of the Christians killed for faith reasons were in Nigeria. 

"Christians do suffer severely because of their faith in Nigeria. The number of people that have been killed because of their faith, that number surpasses all other countries in the globe combined," Brown insisted. "So truly it's an area where there's a lot of instability and a lot of need to be lifting up our brothers and sisters in prayer."

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And most surprising in this year's report? Nicaragua. The country is led by the communist Sandinistas and Daniel Ortega. It jumped twenty places from number 50 in 2023 to number 30 on the 2024 list.

"It is one that continues to see alarming trends where the government really sees the Christian population as threats to the government, as threats to take control – and therefore enact these persecutions against believers in those areas," said Brown.

However, on January 14, the Nicaraguan government announced the release of two Catholic bishops and 15 priests from prison. Among them was Bishop Rolando Alvarez, who was imprisoned for more than a year.

Global Christian Relief CEO David Curry said it is important for the world to learn about Christian persecution through the documentation and indexing of incidents. 

"People often turn aside from the fact that Christians are even persecuted at all because, in our Western mindset, they just don't understand the scope of the problem," he explained.

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Curry's organization has created a new global database recording violent acts of religious persecution. 

"It's time that we see it as a global problem, that extremists are targeting Jews and Christians and others for their faith," he insisted.

As for Brown? He hopes the 2024 World Watch List will motivate people to pray.

"So many of our brothers and sisters are not necessarily seeking to flee that persecution, not looking to escape that persecution, but simply seeking to be the hands and feet of Christ within that context of persecution, looking for prayer, for encouragement that their testimony, their faith will not falter or fail in the face of such mounting odds."

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About The Author

Gary Lane

Mr. Lane currently serves as International News Director and Senior International Correspondent for CBN News. He has traveled to more than 120 countries—many of them restricted nations or areas hostile to Christianity and other minority faiths where he has interviewed persecution victims and has provided video reports and analysis for CBN News. Also, he has provided written stories and has served as a consultant for the Voice of the Martyrs. Gary joined The Christian Broadcasting Network in 1984 as the first full-time Middle East Correspondent for CBN News. Based in Jerusalem, Gary produced