By Open Doors 17 January 2024 4 MIN

Global Trends in Christian Persecution

World Watch List 2024 Highlights

The World Watch List 2024 (WWL 2024), compiled by Open Doors, offers a comprehensive overview of the state of Christian persecution around the globe. In this report, we delve into key findings from the latest edition, highlighting trends, challenges, and noteworthy developments affecting Christian communities.

1. Sub-Saharan Africa: Squeeze On Christian Life

China and Russia’s Influence

Authoritarian regimes in Sub-Saharan Africa are aligning with China and Russia, impacting Christian life. China’s growing role in infrastructure, technology, and training in Africa strengthens autocratic regimes. China exports its authoritarian governance model, evident in a new campus in Tanzania training political leaders.

Russia, through the Wagner Group – a private military contractor – has expanded its influence in various African nations including Burkina Faso, Mali, Central African Republic, Mozambique, and Madagascar. Wagner’s brutal tactics create challenges for documenting atrocities, significantly stifling civic space for Christians. The group’s manipulation of economic sectors leaves African nations vulnerable to chaos.

2. Violence Surges in India Ahead of Elections

India’s Christian community faces escalating violence with a significant rise in attacks, church closures, and forced displacements. The surge is particularly pronounced in Manipur, where ethnic tensions led to the widespread destruction of churches and the displacement of thousands. The government’s alignment with Hindu nationalism contributes to the worsening situation for Christians, with anti-conversion laws and social pressures adding to the state of persecution in the nation.

3. Churches Under Attack Worldwide

China and India Lead in Church Attacks

Among countries scoring 41 or more points on the WWL 2024, China and India top the list for the most church attacks. The term “house churches” in China, once thriving, is now forced underground due to government measures, including those related to the COVID-19 pandemic. In India, aggressive mobs perpetrate violence against churches, contributing to a sharp increase in attacks and forced displacements.

Insurgents Target Churches in Africa

Nigeria, Burkina Faso, and Niger face attacks on churches by Islamic insurgents, leading to abandonment and destruction. The attacks contribute to a cycle of violence, with Christians forced to flee, leaving their homes, businesses, and institutions vulnerable.

4. Fewer Christians at Home in the Middle East and North Africa

The Christian presence in the Middle East and North Africa faces increasing challenges. In Syria, a decade of civil war, coupled with a devastating earthquake, contributed to the decline of Christian communities. In Iraq, political turmoil, association of Christian identity with military force, and election reforms raise concerns for the already vulnerable Christian minority.

Decline in Lebanon

Lebanon, with a significant Christian population, witnessed a decline in privileges and influence in national life. Attacks on churches increase amid economic deterioration, prompting many Christians to contemplate leaving the country.

Devastation in Algeria

Algeria intensified its campaign against the Protestant church, closing affiliated churches and imprisoning leaders. The government’s use of a 2006 law increases pressure, limiting the space for Christian life. Similar trends are observed in other North African countries like Libya and Tunisia.

5. Nicaragua’s Rapid Deterioration

Nicaragua experienced a rapid rise in Christian persecution, moving up 20 spots to No. 30 on the WWL 2024. The government’s open hostility towards the Church, arrests of clergy and defenders of free expression, cancellation of registrations, and seizure of Christian-owned properties contribute to the deteriorating situation. Additionally, the imprisonment of Bishop Rolando Álvarez has garnered international condemnation.

6. North Korea Reclaims No. 1 Spot

After briefly slipping to No. 2 in 2022, North Korea re-established itself as the most challenging country for Christians. China’s influence is evident in the forced repatriation of North Korean refugees, putting them at risk of severe human rights violations. It remains the most dangerous nation to follow Jesus, and openly living as a Christian in 2024 is impossible.

7. A Glimmer of Hope

Amidst the challenges, some positive developments surface. In Mali, a constitutional referendum recognises the Christian minority, signalling a potential return to civilian rule. In India, a change in government in Karnataka state brings promises of revising laws against Christian interests. Sri Lanka witnessed success in educating pastors to stand up for constitutional rights and preventing church closures. Iran, despite remaining largely closed to the gospel, is home to what many have reported as the “fastest growing church in the world”. In Laos, despite increased opposition, the growing church remains resilient.

8. Conclusion

The World Watch List 2024 sheds light on the multifaceted challenges faced by Christian communities globally. From geopolitical influences and authoritarian regimes to rising violence and legal restrictions, Christians persevere amidst adversity, with a few rays of hope pointing towards resilience and potential positive change.

This article is based on the World Watch List 2024 report by Open Doors, reflecting the status of Christian persecution as of the reporting period ending in 2023.

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