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Around the world, more than 260 million Christians—one of every eight believers—experience high levels of persecution, just for following Jesus.

For the past 28 years, the Open Doors World Watch List has offered a global indicator of countries where human and religious rights are being violated, and those countries most vulnerable to societal unrest and destabilization.

During the 2020 World Watch List reporting period, in the top 50 countries, a total of 9,488 churches or Christian buildings were attacked; 3,711 Christians were detained without trial, arrested, sentenced and imprisoned; and 2,983 Christians were killed for faith-related reasons. On average, that’s eight Christians killed every day for their faith.

1. North Korea

Persecution type: Communist and post-communist oppression

Estimated number of Christians: 300,000

How Christians are suffering: “If North Korean Christians are discovered, they are deported to labor camps as political criminals or even killed on the spot. Driven by the state, Christian persecution in North Korea is extreme and meeting other Christians to worship is nearly impossible unless it’s done in complete secrecy.”

Prayer point: “Pray for endurance and courage for Christians who are suffering right now in labor camps across North Korea.”

2. Afghanistan

Persecution type: Clan and ethnic antagonism

Estimated number of Christians: Thousands

How Christians are suffering: “Afghanistan is a tribal society, and loyalty to one’s family, clan and tribe are extremely important. In an Islamic society, it is illegal for an Afghan person to leave Islam. The country is increasingly challenged by Islamic militants, the Taliban controls or contests more and more areas, and an ISIS-affiliated group also targets minorities. Those who decide to follow Jesus do so in secret.”

Prayer Point: “The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan does not allow conversion from Islam. Please pray for a softening of the country’s leadership and local rulers.”

3. Somalia

Persecution type: Islamic oppression

Estimated number of Christians: A few hundred

How Christians are suffering: “Somalia remains mired in civil war, tribalism and violent Islamic militancy. Conversion to Christianity is regarded as a betrayal of the Somali family and clan. If Somalis are suspected of being converts, family members and clan leaders will harass, intimidate and even kill them.”

Prayer point: “Pray for Somali Christians who often must hide their faith to survive. Pray that they will have courage and hope in the midst of extreme persecution.”

4. Libya

Persecution type: Islamic oppression

Estimated number of Christians: 36,200

How Christians are suffering: “The absence of a single central government to uphold law and order contributes to the extreme levels of pressure in national and church life. Libyan Christians with a Muslim background face violent and intense pressure to renounce their faith from their family and the wider community.”

Prayer point: “Pray for the protection of migrant workers in Libya, especially for those who are Christians and face double persecution.”

5. Pakistan

Persecution type: Islamic oppression

Estimated number of Christians: 4,015,000

How Christians are suffering: “Historic churches have relative freedom for worship, but they are heavily monitored, and extremists regularly target them for attacks—the last one occurring in December 2017. Christian churches that are active in outreach and youthwork face more persecution. In general, Christians are regarded as second-class citizens.”

Prayer point: “Pray for Christians who are accused under blasphemy laws. Ask God to give them strength and hope during their trials—and for justice to prevail.”

6. Eritrea

Persecution type: Christian denominational protectionism

Estimated number of Christians: 2,492,000

How Christians are suffering: “The authoritarian regime under President Afwerki is responsible for massive human rights violations, especially toward Christians. Christians who aren’t members of state approved churches are considered agents of the West and a threat to the state. Hundreds of Christians who are members of unregistered churches are in prison; some have been held captive for over a decade.”

Prayer point: “Pray for endurance for brothers and sisters detained or imprisoned in horrific conditions, and ask God to give them perseverance in their faith.”

7. Sudan

Persecution type: Islamic oppression

Estimated number of Christians: 1,963,000

How Christians are suffering: “Sudan’s current political chaos has left Christians in limbo. The secession of South Sudan in 2011 has also made Christians more vulnerable as Islamic conservatives in Sudan push for a Shariah state. Recently, the government has arrested or intimidated many Christian leaders, and numerous churches have been demolished.”

Prayer point: “Pray for new converts to Christianity, that they would be able to stand strong and have access to Bibles and discipleship training.”

8. Yemen

Persecution type: Islamic oppression

Estimated number of Christians: A few thousand

How Christians are suffering: “An ongoing civil war in Yemen has created one of the worst humanitarian crises in recent memory, making an already difficult nation for Christians even harder. The war has allowed radical Islamic groups to expand their operations in certain areas, leading to Christians being abducted and killed.”

Prayer point: “Pray for peace in Yemen as opposing forces continue to clash and leave Christians vulnerable.”

9. Iran

Persecution type: Islamic oppression

Estimated number of Christians: 800,000

How Christians are suffering: “Iranian society is governed by Islamic law, which means the rights and professional possibilities for Christians are heavily restricted. Christians are forbidden from sharing their faith with non-Christians in Iran, and it is illegal to produce Christian literature or hold church services in Farsi.”

Prayer point: “Pray for secret believers who meet in house churches, that they will be protected and will be faithful witnesses to the surrounding culture.”

10. India

Persecution type: Religious nationalism

Estimated number of Christians: 66,194,000

How Christians are suffering: “Since the current ruling party took power in 2014, incidents against Christians have increased, and Hindu radicals often attack Christians with little to no consequences. The view of the Hindu nationalists is that to be Indian is to be Hindu, so any other faith—including Christianity—is viewed as non-Indian.’”

Prayer point: “Pray for God’s power and protection over Christians as they preach the gospel in places with anti-conversion laws.”

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