Report shows militant regimes persecute Christians more worldwide

Henry

Militant and autocratic regimes exacerbate persecution especially for Christians in sub-Saharan Africa.

This is just one of the worrying trends highlighted by Open Doors’ latest World Watch List (WWL). On the list are the top 50 countries where Christians experience the worst persecution because of their faith. It raises awareness of the hardships that persecuted Christians face every day. Countries are listed on it according to the severity of persecution and discrimination experienced by Christians living there.

Open Doors is particularly concerned about several shocking incidents of persecution in Africa that have hit the headlines in the past 12 months, including several horrific events in Nigeria. Gunmen from the militant Fulani gangs have killed at least 200 people in Christian-dominated towns in Plateau State, Nigeria. More than 300 people were also killed in the attack, which targeted at least 36 towns across the region, and thousands of homes were destroyed. The well-coordinated attack began on Christmas Eve and continued into the early hours of December 26.

In April to June 2023, intensified attacks on Christian communities in Plateau State claimed more than 340 lives and uprooted another 80,000. A total of 54 villages were affected in this severe spate of violence and almost daily attacks, which happened mostly in Mangu Local Government Area.

Alarming figures

More than 365 million Christians face high levels of persecution and discrimination because of their faith – more than last year’s figure of 360 million. This figure represents one in seven Christians worldwide, up from one in eight three years ago. In the WWL’s top 50 countries alone, 317 million Christians experience very high or extreme levels of persecution or discrimination because of their faith.

Over the 31 years of Open Doors’ WWL reporting, the number of countries where Christians experience extreme, very high or high levels of persecution has almost doubled from 40 countries in 1993 to 78 countries in 2024.

Some of the biggest concerns on this year’s list, aside from violence against Christians in sub-Saharan Africa reaching new heights, are the influence of radical Islamic elements and autocratic regimes exploiting unstable political conditions across the African continent, the Wagner- group that infiltrated Mali, the rise in violence against Christians in India, the increase in church attacks in China, India and several other countries, and the sharp increase in persecution in Nicaragua.

Top-5 countries

North Korea once again holds the number one spot on the WWL. Christians here are forced to practice their faith in total secrecy. Information about raids rarely reaches the international media, but one case was leaked in April 2023 when five Christians gathered in a remote farmhouse in central North Korea to pray together – only to find that the police had received a tip from an informant. have and await them. The five Christians who were arrested now face years of hard forced labour.

Somalia is once again in second position this year – the same as last year. Following this Libya in third place, Eritrea in fourth place and Yemen in fifth place.

WWL 2024 in numbers

Some of the most important trends on the 2024 WWL are:

  1. A total of 4,998 Christians have been killed worldwide in faith-related attacks. The figures are probably much higher, but cases are not always reported.
  2. A sevenfold increase in attacks on churches, Christian schools and hospitals from 2,110 in 2023’s list to 14,766 in the latest WWL.
  3. Christians being assaulted or threatened increased from 29,411 reported cases in 2023 to 42,849 in 2024.
  4. A total of 365 million Christians – one in seven worldwide – experience high levels of persecution and discrimination because of their faith – up from last year’s figure of 360 million.
  5. Five of the top 10 countries at the 2024 WWL are in Africa.

Nigeria a bottleneck in Africa

This WWL shows that Christians in Nigeria, who are now in sixth position on the list, experience some of the worst harassment and persecution. Various militant groups carry out raids on Christian communities during which people are killed, maimed, raped and kidnapped for ransom or sexual slavery.

More than 82% of Christians killed for their faith worldwide this year were in Nigeria, and faith-related killings in sub-Saharan Africa far exceeded those of any other region on the annual list. This trend can be seen for several years.

Just like the previous year, Nigeria was responsible for about nine out of ten religiously motivated murders in Africa’s WWL countries. However, the number of murders in these countries is probably even higher because it is difficult to get reliable reports on the impact of violence during conflict and its aftermath.

Intense violence in Ethiopia (32) has resulted in a sharp increase in the number of attacks on churches and schools. There was also an upward rise in the number of Christian-owned businesses looted or confiscated in Burkina Faso (20) and the Central African Republic (28).

These trends are reflected elsewhere in Africa and in other countries on the annual list as attacks have increased worldwide.

At least 4,606 Christians were killed for their faith in 18 of the 26 countries on the WWL that are south of the Sahara Desert. A total of 15 of these 26 countries reached the highest level in the overall violence score. At least 16.2 million Christians in sub-Saharan Africa have been violently uprooted by the end of 2022.

Radical Islamic elements and autocratic regimes

Radical Islamic elements exploiting unstable political conditions are a common sight across Africa. Government and security failures open the door to jihadist activities seen for example in Burkina Faso (20), Mali (14), Mozambique (39), Nigeria (6) and Somalia (2).

“The threat from Islamic militants in sub-Saharan Africa has increased sharply to the point where many Christians in the region increasingly have to live in fear,” says Frans Veerman, managing director of the Open Doors World Watch Research.

“Christians are deliberately targeted or are extra vulnerable on a continent dominated by the dual problems of radical Islamic elements and increasingly autocratic regimes. This is the ever-growing threat to Christians south of the Sahara desert, and if left unchecked, it is expected that this double pressure will overwhelm them and force them out of their homes and villages.

“Governments in the region must take meaningful action to address the growing influence of jihadist groups and prioritize protecting vulnerable people from their aggressors. Without this action, Christian communities that once flourished will disappear.”

Church closings and attacks

China (19) and India (11) were the biggest offenders in terms of church closings and attacks. Figures show that an estimated 10,000 churches were closed in China and 2,228 were attacked in India. Together, these two countries account for almost 83% of all closing and attack incidents on churches in all countries on the 2024 list.

China has closed thousands of churches through a set of old and new authoritarian measures. Large unregistered “house churches”, which met in hotels or office blocks, were forced to splinter into a host of less visible house groups, and many of the sites for state-sanctioned churches were forced to close and merge with larger churches.

In contrast, church attacks in India have been perpetrated by aggressive mobs. According to Archbishop Dominic Lupon of Imphal, 249 churches were destroyed in the first 36 hours of the Manipur violence.

Church attacks in Angola (71), Burkina Faso (20), Ethiopia (32), Nicaragua (30), Nigeria (6), Niger (27), Rwanda (63) and Sudan (8) were also particularly high.

Lynette Leibach, executive director of Open Doors Southern Africa, says: “As we return to work, to school and to a normal life after the holidays, the research shows the serious situation faced by more and more members of our Christian family in the faced – especially on our own continent.

“I am once again challenged by the fact that behind every statistic there is an individual adult or child, family or community whose life does not continue undisturbed. To stand by them in word and deed is a matter of urgency.”

Visit www.opendoors.org.za to view and download the complete 2024 World Watch List, the top 50 country profiles and prosecution statistics, as well as the top 50 countries’ media and advocacy dossiers.

  • Download your attached 2024 WWL prayer card to direct your prayers.