Afghanistan is now the most dangerous place in the world to be a Christian

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Open Doors has today released their 2022 World Watch List, and for the first time in over 20 years, there’s a new country at the top.

According to Open Doors, Afghanistan is now the most dangerous place in the world to be a Christian, overtaking North Korea.

The World Watch List 2022 is a ranking of the 50 countries where the persecution of Christians is most extreme. It is produced using detailed information from 150 countries. Data is gathered on five spheres of life – private, family, community, national and church life. A sixth block, ‘violence’, cuts across all five, and measures serious ‘violence’ (including deprivation of freedom) to people or property. Persecution in each country is recorded by Open Doors using a points system, which this year has given Afghanistan the top spot.

Over the past 20 years North Korea has held this position, as persecution has grown increasingly worse for Christians, countless individuals have lost their lives for practising their faith and whole families have been sent to forced labour camps. But even as persecution has increased in North Korea, to its highest recorded levels, it has become more extreme for Christians living in Afghanistan.

For a long time, Afghanistan sat at number two on the World Watch List, as converting to Christianity from Islam was strictly forbidden and Christians who were discovered faced near certain death.

But after the Taliban takeover in August 2021, all Christians have been forced into hiding, out of the country or killed.

Christians in Afghanistan are being hunted down and their names are known to the Taliban. They are living are under deplorable conditions and are forced to stay in hiding, operating completely underground. Many Christians have fled to rural regions, or refugee camps in neighbouring nations – all of which are countries also hostile to Christians.

Mike Gore, CEO of Open Doors Australia and New Zealand says, “It is significant to witness Afghanistan take the place of North Korea as the most dangerous country for Christians to practice their faith. Many Christians have been forced to flee or risk death at the hands of the Taliban.”

“It is significant to witness Afghanistan take the place of North Korea as the most dangerous country for Christians to practice their faith. Many Christians have been forced to flee or risk death at the hands of the Taliban.” – Mike Gore

Zabi* is a young Christian woman from Afghanistan. Five years ago her father was killed for his faith by the Taliban, and two years ago her brother also disappeared.

Zabi and her mother have now had no choice but to flee Afghanistan to a neighbouring country.

“Our situation is desperate,” Zabi told Open Doors recently. “I have money in my bank account, but cannot access it from here. What will happen to me? I’m praying I can leave this country and go somewhere safe. I may have to go into hiding. Or I’ll be deported to Afghanistan, but I may be killed if that happens.

“We don’t have food or extra clothes. We cannot pay the rent of the apartment…I feel alone and hopeless. If I’m honest. I can only think about survival.”

Zabi is one of over 360 million Christians around the world who face persecution for their faith.

The top ten of the list for 2022 are:

  1. Afghanistan
  2. North Korea
  3. Somalia
  4. Libya
  5. Yemen
  6. Eritrea
  7. Nigeria
  8. Pakistan
  9. Iran
  10. India

In the top 50 there are a number of other notable jumps, including Qatar rising from #18 to #29 as a result of the closure of the majority of house churches. After COVID-19 restrictions were lifted, many house churches that had once been tolerated were forced to stay closed. Converts from Islam to Christianity remain under very high pressure from the Qatari government and Qatari society.

Cuba is in the top 50 for the first time since 2012, as the dictatorial regime intensified its action against all Christian leaders and activists opposing Communist principles, especially after widespread demonstrations which occurred in July 2021. Government measures included arbitrary fines, close surveillance, denials of licenses and religious visas, arrest and physical and mental abuse.

Open Doors is working to support Christians facing persecution, and enable Christians who have freedom to stand with their brothers and sisters around the world.

“Bringing to light the persecution of Christians remains the work of Open Doors for the foreseeable future. Our goal is to equip and strengthen the global Church to stand courageously for Jesus,” says CEO Mike Gore.

*Name changed to protect Zabi.