(ZENIT News – ACN / Madrid, 31.01.2023).- Today, more than 360 million Christians experience high levels of persecution and discrimination, according to the Report presented by the Evangelical Christian organization Open Doors “World Watch List of Persecution 2023.” Moreover, throughout the world one out of every seven Christians is persecuted or discriminated because of his faith. According to Ted Blake, Director of Open Doors in Spain, “this figure is one out of five in Africa, two out of five in Asia and one out of 15 in Latin America.”
Another important conclusion of the study is that Sub-Saharan Africa is facing an enormous humanitarian disaster given the wave of religious violence, whose epicentre is in Nigeria, which has extended to the whole region and which is directed against Christian populations.
“For 30 years we have been presenting annually this World List of Persecution, and never before have we had such high levels of persecution as now,” said Ted Blake.
North Korea occupies the first place in the persecution of Christians, with the highest levels of persecution in its history. The increase is due to the new wave of arrests in virtue of its recent “Law Against Reactionary Thought.” The other countries occupying the first places in the Report are: Somalia, Yemen, Eritrea, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and Sudan.
The Christian presence continues to decrease in the Middle East, according to Open Doors. It hasn’t been able to recover after the boom of the Islamic State, despite the slight decrease in the number of murdered Christians (with the exception of Syria, which has suffered a wave of violent incidents). “This is the cradle of Christianity and a great part of the Church is losing hope: the discrimination and poverty regime is too heavy to endure, especially for young people who don’t see a future here as believers,” according to Rami Abed Al-Masih, Regional Director of Open Doors’ Legal Defense for the Middle East and North Africa.
Nicaragua is yet another Latin American country to enter the list. Organized crime is being entrenched especially in rural areas where Christians denounce the activities of the cartels. Meanwhile, the Government’s direct oppression of Christians, considered to be the voice of opposition, is widespread in Nicaragua, Venezuela and Cuba, country where Evangelical Christian leaders were imprisoned without a trial for their participation in last year’s protests.
The total number of murdered Christians due to their faith decreased slightly from 5,898 in the 2022 edition of the Report to 5,621 cases registered at present, with the clear exception of Sub-Saharan Africa, as pointed out earlier. The total number of attacked churches under different levels of violence decreased from 5,110 (LMP, 2022) to 2,110 registered cases (LMP, 2023). As the world returns to a degree ”to normality after the pandemic, there seems to be a certain stabilization of violence, although the exact reason for it is the object of discussion and it’s not considered very probable that it forms part of a continued tendency.
Greater tolerance has been promoted in certain countries of the Gulf. Persecution decreased in Bahrein, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt. In Qatar persecution also has decreased this year, although this might be due to the massive closing of churches during 2022, which continue closed this year.