In 1955, Andrew van der Bijl visited Poland. There he encountered persecuted Christians. “Brother Andrew” began traveling around Eastern Europe. He delivered Bibles and encouraged those suffering for their faith. The ministry he began, Open Doors, continues—identifying and encouraging persecuted Christians around the world.
Today, Open Doors produces manuals on resisting persecution, trains pastors, runs literacy initiatives, and sponsors relief projects.
Since the 1990s, the group has published a “World Watch List.” It names the 50 countries where Christians follow Jesus at the greatest cost. The list helps keep persecution at the forefront of discussions with world leaders and the prayers of God’s people.
Below are some of the countries with the worst records:
North Korea (1)
North Korea tops the World Watch List. This year’s “persecution score” of 98/100 is the highest a country has ever received.
Colombia, Cuba, Mexico, Nicaragua (22, 27, 38, 50)
Persecution in Latin America has increased more than any area in the world. Corrupt governments allow criminals to gain power—and persecute those who oppose them.
Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Sudan (23, 24, 37, 17, 32, 28, 6, 10)
Jihadists want to claim the African continent, so violence against Christians there is rising.
Increased violence in Syria—including dozens of attacks on Christian sites, at least five kidnappings, and three people killed for their faith—pushed the country higher on the list.
Some countries have improved their scores this year. Although the reasons might not seem good, relief for the persecuted is welcome!
Afghanistan was number one on last year’s list. Its fall is mostly because the Taliban is working to increase its own power and hasn’t targeted non-Muslims as fiercely. Still, persecution touches almost all Afghani Christians.
Last year, Qatar was #18. Open Doors analysts believe the drop to #34 is probably linked to the spotlight on Qatar’s terrible human rights record during the FIFA World Cup. Still, oppression for Christian converts from Islam remains high.
Jesus followers shouldn’t be surprised by persecution. Jesus foretold this when He said: “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” (John 15:20)
God is still in control. He’s at work in the direst of circumstances. People from every tribe and tongue daily claim Jesus as Savior—and take great risks to live as Christians in the places He put them. What will you do?
Why? Reading about how Christians around the world endure persecution can increase our faith, hold authorities accountable, and force us to our knees to pray for them all.
Pray for persecuted Christians around the world. Pray that oppressive governments would be thwarted, that believers would be encouraged, and that Christians everywhere would support their fellow believers.