Discover the countries which are just outside the Open Doors World Watch List top 50, where Christians also count the cost of following Jesus.
The focus of the Open Doors World Watch List is on the 50 countries where Christians pay the highest cost for following Jesus – but, sadly, believers are persecuted in other countries too. In 78 countries, Christians face high, very high or extreme persecution and discrimination (that is, a ‘persecution score’ of 40 or more according to World Watch List methodology). That’s two more countries than last year.
No countries entered or left the top 50 in World Watch List 2024, though many changed position. Some of the countries listed below have previously been in the top 50. Two countries have a high level of Christian persecution for the first time: Lebanon and Ukraine.
Kenya is at number 51 for the second year in a row. Though there were fewer reported murders and church attacks this year, Christians remain vulnerable to attack by jihadist attacks, particularly at the hands of Islamic extremists al-Shabaab. Christians who’ve converted from Islam are at risk from their communities and even their relatives, particularly in the north east and coastal regions of Kenya. Many have made the decision to relocated to Nairobi, which is less dangerous.
Tanzania has risen a place in the World Watch List, though the persecution score has actually fallen slightly as there have been fewer reports of Christian homes and businesses being attacked. Believers are still targeted by jihadists, though, and church activities continue to be monitored by state authorities. Church leaders still fear openly criticising the government’s record on social injustice as this has led to harassment in the past.
Converts from Hinduism experience the most pressure in Nepal, and Hindu extremist mobs attacked three churches in August 2023. There were also reports of Christians being forced to flee their homes and villages because of threats. Hindu nationalism is currently a greater cause of persecution in neighbouring India, but there is a growing number of radical groups in Nepal who want to turn the country into a Hindu state, and these groups have close ties with extremist groups in India. Anti-conversion legislation was signed into law in 2017, and can be used to harass and falsely accuse Christians.
Persecution has decreased slightly in Kuwait, owing to reduction in pressure across all areas of life and fewer incidents of violence being reported. Immigrant Christians from the West are usually able to practise their faith without persecution, though they can face persecution if they share the gospel with Kuwaitis. Kuwaiti converts from Islam are most likely to experience persecution, as this conversion is seen as disloyalty to your clan or family. You are likely to be pressured to return to Islam.
Persecution is increasing in Djibouti, with more reported incidents of violence in the past year. Djibouti now has a ‘very high’ level of persecution, up from ‘high’. There are reports of women who’ve converted Islam being forced to marry Muslims without their consent. Islam is deeply rooted in society and hence any other religion is regarded as alien. The level of persecution that Christians with a Muslim background experience comes both from the local community and their own family members. Hiding one’s faith is one means of protection but the communal lifestyle makes this very difficult.
There has been a sharp increase in violent persecution of Christians in Chad in the past year from Fulani militants and Boko Haram militants, meaning Chad’s Christians now face ‘very high’ levels of persecution, up from ‘high’. Converts face a perilous existence, caught between political, familial, and radical Islamic threats. Although Christians make up over 30% of the population, public worship for Christians is faced with hostility in northern and north eastern regions, as well as in areas outside the capital city.
United Arab Emirates (UAE) has fallen three places on the World Watch List, with a corresponding, though small, decrease in persecution. Overall, pressure remains highest on converts from Islam to Christianity – both natives to UAE and immigrants from other countries. Islam dominates private and public life, and all citizens are considered Muslim: officially, the punishment for conversion is death. Even though there are no reported cases of the death penalty being enforced against converts, the mere fact that the law exists is an effective deterrent.
Persecution against Christians has risen in Sri Lanka this year, with a significant increase in violent incidents – particularly attacks on churches and arrests of Christians for faith-based reasons. Government officials, especially in predominantly Buddhist communities, continue to contribute towards the persecution of Christians – often following the demands of local Buddhist monks or mobs. Converts to Christianity are the most vulnerable to persecution. As one country researcher states, “People often say that changing one's religion is similar to forgetting one's own mother.”
Violence increased slightly in Azerbaijan in the past year – including a church and two Christian cemeteries being damaged by government armed forces. No religious activities beyond state-run and state-controlled institutions are allowed. State agents are reported to have infiltrated all religious congregations. Pastors and other church leaders are regularly invited for conversations with the police. This has created an atmosphere of fear and no one knows who they can trust any longer.
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