2023.01.18 World Watch List 2023 Open Doors - i primi 50 Paesi dove i cristiani sono più perseguitati

Over 360 million Christians suffering persecution in the world

Open Doors releases its annual World Watch List 2023 confirming that one out of every seven Christians in the world suffers high levels of persecution and discrimination for their faith.

By Lisa Zengarini

Although numbers haven’t changed substantially from the previous year, 2022 was the worst year for Christians worldwide, due to an intensifying level of violence discrimination and exclusion, according to the latest World Watch List released by Open Doors, a watchdog group that advocates for Christians.

The report, which was presented on Wednesday at the Italian Parliament in Rome, ranks the fifty countries where Christians face the worst persecution.

North Korea first in the list

According to the data reported, more than 360 million Christians suffer high levels of persecution and discrimination for their faith.  Similar numbers were recorded last year. However, the score of the indicators in the fifty countries at risk is growing.

North Korea appears again as the most hostile place for Christians to live, due to the new “Law against Reactionary Thinking" introduced in 2021, which has led to an increase in arrests. Christians have no freedom of worship,  and if discovered practicing their faith, face labour camps, if not death. Even owning a Bible is a serious crime and will be severely punished.

Afghanistan in ninth position

In the previous report, Pyongyang had been replaced by Afghanistan, following the Talebani takeover in August  2021. The latter’s ranking has dropped to the ninth  place, not because of any improvement, but for the simple reason that most Christians present there have fled the country.

Conversion from Islam to another faith is punished with death in Afghanistan. The tiny local Christian community is,  therefore, forced to live in clandestinity.

North Korea is followed by Somalia, Yemen, Eritrea, Lybia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Iran,  all of  which are facing either war or internal strife,  or are under authoritarian regimes, as in the case of Eritrea and Iran.. 


One of the countries of most concern is Nigeria, where Christians are targeted by the Boko Haram insurgency, Muslim Fulani herders, along with bandits, as in the most recent incident in the Diocese of Minna where a priest was burned to death and another injured by unknown assailants.

In terms of absolute numbers, Christians killed in 2022 have slightly decreased from 5,621 to 5,898.  Also, the number of churches attacked or closed decreased by more than half from over five thousand in 2021 to just over two thousand last year. China has played a major role in this cutback, with one thousand incidents against three thousand in the previous year.

Drastic increase in abductions of Christians 

On the other hand, however, 2022 saw a drastic increase in abductions of Christians, from 3,829 to 5,259. Almost five thousand were concentrated in three countries: Nigeria, Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where in recent days Islamists have claimed a bomb attack against a Pentecostal church in the eastern Congolese town of Kasindi, which killed 14 people and injured 39.

According to the data, tens of thousands of Christians have been attacked in several countries across the world, and almost 30,000 incidents have been recorded.


In India, where Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist government has curtailed the rights of members of other faiths, a total of 1,750 of Christians were arrested without trial 2022.

Open harassment is often accompanied by more subtle pressures, including daily abuses at work-places, at school, in public facilities. Though difficult to quantify, they have a strong impact on communities and contribute to forcing Christians to displace internally and internationally.


This is particularly evident in the Middle East and in the Sahel region in Africa, due to jihadist insurgency, and also in Iran and Myanmar, where since the military coup in February 2021 the junta’s army has been targeting churches.

The latest incident occurred on 15 January, when the Tatmadaw burned down an historic Catholic church in the village of Chan Thar, in the Diocese of Mandalay.

According to Open Doors, in several countries, displacement is often a deliberate strategy aimed at wiping out the Christian presence there.

Religious persecution against women

Other heinous but “hidden” forms of persecution target Christian women: thousands are victims of rape to shame their families and communities, or of forced marriages aimed at forced conversion.

The report records only a handful of cases: over 2,000 rapes and 717 forced marriages. However, this is only the top of the iceberg, as for social and cultural reasons most cases are not reported to authorities.  This is why Open Doors in recent years has been investigating into gender-specific religious persecution.  

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18 January 2023, 15:47