Fact Sheet: 2017 Open Doors World Watch List

The Open Doors World Watch List is the only comprehensive annual survey of religious liberty conditions for Christians around the world. From Nov. 1, 2015, to Oct. 31, 2016, researchers measured the degree of freedom a Christian has to live out his or her faith. Christians are one of the most victimized groups in the world, and the daily life of Christians in the nations on the Open Doors World Watch List has become increasingly difficult. Open Doors World Watch List researchers define the persecution of Christians as any hostility experienced as a result of one's identification with Christ; this includes imprisonment, torture, beheadings, rape, and loss of home and assets. The top findings from this year's list include the following:

  • North Korea remains the most difficult and dangerous place in the world to be a Christian for the 16th consecutive year, again ranking No. 1 on the Open Doors World Watch List.
  • One in 12 Christians today experiences high, very high or extreme persecution for their faith.
  • In the countries on the Open Doors World Watch List, approximately 215 million Christians face high persecution, with 100 million of those living in Asia.
  • In the top 21 countries on the Open Doors World Watch List, 100 percent of Christians experience persecution.
  • Christians are a minority in all countries on the list, accounting for only 13 percent of the total population.
  • It is difficult to obtain an accurate number of Christians who were killed because of their faith. Even though persecution has spread, 1,207 Christians were killed worldwide for faith-related reasons. (This figure does not include North Korea and some of Syria and Iraq, where accurate records do not exist, nor instances of war where it is difficult to determine the killing motive).
  • The 2017 list includes a rare report where the killings of Christians have been more geographically dispersed.
  • Approximately 1,329 churches were attacked or damaged.
  • Islamic extremism is the lead generator of persecution for 35 out of 50 countries on the list.
  • Mali and Bangladesh made the biggest leaps on the list, from No. 44 to No. 32 and No. 35 to No. 26.
  • Yemen is the only new country to join the top 10ten list. 
  • Sri Lanka returned to the list at No. 45, boosted by Buddhist nationalism, while Mauritania also joined the list at No. 47.
  • Pakistan had the most overall violence against Christians.
  • Afghanistan, Maldives, North Korea, Somalia, Turkmenistan and Yemen are the most dangerous countries to own a Bible, where Christians are killed or put in labor camps if caught with a Bible.

A complete methodology for how Open Doors World Watch List is calculated is available at 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.