Edgar Allen Poe could not have written a story more terrifying to Christians.
The difference between Poe’s tales and this story is that this story is true: The Open Doors World Watch 2020 report: the 50 Countries Where it is the Most Dangerous to Follow Jesus.
The report lists the 50 worst places in which 260 million Christians experience high levels of persecution, a 6 percent increase from the previous year. The list uses data from Open Doors field workers and external experts to quantify and analyze persecution worldwide. Countries are ranked by the severity of persecution of Christians, calculated by analyzing the level of violent persecution plus the pressure experienced in five spheres of life.
Here are the top 10 (or bottom 10, depending on how you think about it):
- North Korea – Persons discovered to be Christians are sent to labor camps.
- Afghanistan – It is illegal for a person to leave Islam.
- Somalia – If Somalis are suspected of being converts, family members and clan leaders will harass, intimidate and even kill them.
- Libya – Libyan Christians with a Muslim background face violent and intense pressure to renounce their faith from their family and the wider community.
- Pakistan – In general, Christians are regarded as second- class citizens.
- Eritrea – Christians who aren’t members of state-approved churches are considered agents of the West and a threat to the state.
- Sudan – Extremists have attacked Christians, especially in the Nuba Mountain region, where thousands of Christians have been killed or displaced.
- Yemen – Muslims who decide to follow Jesus could face the death penalty.
- Iran – Christians are forbidden from sharing their faith with non-Christians in Iran, and it is illegal to produce Christian literature or hold church services
- India – Converts to Christianity from Hindu backgrounds or tribal religions are often extremely persecuted by their family members and communities.
The report exposes four frightening trends in the persecution of Christians:
- In the most populated countries on earth, Christians live in a surveillance state: In China (No. 23), where there are an estimated 97 million Christians, persecution against Christians has taken a technological turn. A recent report cited by CNBC estimates there are approximately 415 million surveillance cameras in China, a number only expected to grow in coming years. China has also developed widespread facial recognition software and established laws requiring facial scans to purchase a phone. When taken together, these two technological advances mean the government can track individuals like never before.
- Violent Islamic extremism is spiking in sub-Saharan Africa: Sub-Saharan Africa is increasingly under threat from Islamic extremist groups. Particularly in countries or in regions where government control is weak or non-existent, these groups are killing, kidnapping and sowing chaos with impunity.
- Militant Islam is spreading violence and fear in Southeast and South Asia: The influence of radical Islamic ideology has dispersed not only across sub-Saharan Africa but has also emerged in completely unexpected atrocities. In Sri Lanka (No. 30, up from 46 in 2019) 250 people died and more than 500 were injured in attacks on Catholic and Protestant churches and hotels on Easter Sunday.
- Christianity is on the verge of disappearing in Iraq and Syria: Almost nine years of civil war in Syria (No. 11) and years of conflict in Iraq (No. 15) continue to devastate Christian communities. In Iraq, there are now around 202,000 Christians, down from 1.5 million before 2003—an 87 percent reduction in one generation. Some Christians have returned to rebuild their homes, but their return is complicated by security, education, health, and employment difficulties.
Persecution of Christians can result in death. As the Open Doors report shows, 2,983 Christians were killed for reasons related to the faith in the past year. That works out to more than 8 deaths per day.