One in Every Six Christian Africans Experiences High Persecution
Annual Watch List Exposes Worst Religious-Persecution Offenders
The 2019 Open Doors World Watch List reveals new persecution numbers for Christian Africans. With an increase in religious persecution, the research reports that one in every six African Christians experiences high persecution due to their faith. This is an increase from last year’s data, in which one in every eight Christians experienced high persecution. More than 631 million Africans consider themselves to be Christians. Overall, Open Doors World Watch List estimates that more than 245 million Christians now experience high, very high or extreme persecution, an increase from 215 million in 2018.
Islamic oppression fuels persecution in eight of the top 10 countries on the 2019 Open Doors World Watch List. While the violence from Islamic State and other Islamic militants has mostly disappeared from the Middle East, their loss of territory there means that fighters have dispersed to a larger number of countries not only in the region, but, increasingly, into sub-Saharan Africa. Their radical ideology has inspired, or infiltrated, numerous splinter groups such as Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), a deadly group that broke away from Nigeria’s Boko Haram, and that also enslaves Christian women and girls as an integral part of their strategy.
Sub-Saharan Africa poses one of the world’s most potent security challenges, as weak governance, poverty and radical Islam increasingly collide. Instability, corruption, poverty, unemployment and lack of governance feed into Christian persecution, because states either are ineffective or sometimes actively conspire due to ethnic, tribal or political affiliations. The effect of the ensuing accumulation of structural vulnerabilities is also borne out in distinct patterns of persecution for men and women of the region.
Almost 30 violent Islamist groups are known to be active in the African region, and most perpetrate violence in more than one country. Some of them continue to hold expatriate Christian aid workers as hostages in Mali, Burkina Faso and other countries. Nigeria’s Boko Haram shows the fluidity of violence across the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin, instigating attacks in four countries. The potent mix of radical Islam layered on top of regional and local conflicts means that Christian Africans continue to die in north-east Kenya (No. 40), the Central African Republic (No. 21), and north and central Nigeria (No. 12).
In its 27th year, the list—which is the world’s only assessment of religious persecution based upon in-depth, rigorous analysis of on-the-ground, first-person research—remains a global indicator of where human and religious rights are being violated, and those countries most vulnerable to societal unrest and destabilization.
"The situation in Africa continues to be one of the more intense and volatile regions for Christians," said David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors USA. "Weak governments and an inability or want to help provide stability for all African peoples have only heightened the risk for Christians who continue to be targets of mass killings, beatings and kidnappings."
- North Korea
Persecution at a Glance
Christians remain one of the most persecuted religious groups in the world. While persecution of Christians takes many forms, it is defined as any hostility experienced as a result of identification with Christ. Christians throughout the world continue to risk imprisonment, loss of home and assets, torture, beheadings, rape and even death, as a result of their faith.
- Interviews with David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors USA
- Interviews with persecuted Christians from India, Iraq, Nigeria and South Asia
- View the complete 2019 Open Doors World Watch List
- View all news releases overarching trends, Russia, Asia and the Middle East
The Open Doors World Watch List is the only comprehensive, annual survey of the state of religious liberty for Christians around the world. From Nov. 1, 2017, to Oct. 31, 2018, researchers measured the degree of freedom a Christian has to live out his or her faith in five spheres of life—private, family, community, national and church, plus a sixth category measuring the degree of violence. Points are given for each incident of persecution, and the total points provide the ranking for each country. For more information on the methodology of the Open Doors World Watch List, please visit OpenDoorsUSA.org.
About Open Doors USA
For more than 60 years, Open Doors USA has worked in the world's most oppressive and restrictive countries for Christians. Open Doors works to equip and encourage Christians living in dangerous circumstances with the threat of persecution and equips the Western church to advocate for the persecuted. Christians are one of the most persecuted religious groups in the world and are oppressed in at least 60 countries. For more information, visit OpenDoorsUSA.org.