'Shocking increase' in persecution of Christians globally, finds report
'For many Christians in India, daily life is now full of fear – totally different from just four or five years ago'
India entered the World Watch List top 10 for the first time Photo: Saqib Majeed/Zuma Press/PA Images
The number of Christians persecuted for their faith globally has risen by more than 13 per cent, an anti-persecution charity has found.
Global charity, Open Doors International, today (16 January) released its “2019 World Watch List”, an annual league table ranking the 50 countries where Christians face the most extreme persecution.
Open Doors estimates that 245 million Christians worldwide face high levels of persecution in 73 countries this year, up from 215 million last year in 58 countries the previous year. These figures equate to 1 in 9 Christians globally experiencing high levels of persecution, last year it was the equivalent of 1 in 12.
Henrietta Blyth, Chief Executive of Open Doors UK and Ireland said: “Our research uncovers a shocking increase in the persecution of Christians globally… Worldwide, our data reveals that 13.9 per cent more Christians are experiencing high levels of persecution than last year. That’s 30 million more people.”
The list shows China to have risen from number 43 on last year’s list to 27 in 2019.
“In China, our figures indicate persecution is the worst it’s been in more than a decade – alarmingly, some church leaders are saying it’s the worst since the Cultural Revolution ended in 1976,” Blythe said.
The report found that one in three Christians face high levels of persecution in Asia, while India entered the World Watch List top 10 for the first time.
Open Doors said that growing ultra-nationalism has brought waves of violence against India’s significant non-Hindu religious minorities.
Blyth said: “It’s shocking that India – the country which taught the world the way of ‘non-violence’ – now sits alongside the likes of Iran on our World Watch List. For many Christians in India, daily life is now full of fear – totally different from just four or five years ago.”
Persecution in North Korea is worse than any other country in the world and has been for the last 18 years, the report found.
Five years ago only North Korea was in the extreme category for the level of persecution suffered by Christians there. This year Christians in the top 11 countries on the World Watch List suffer extreme persecution. These are: North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, Pakistan, Sudan, Eritrea, Yemen, Iran, India and Syria.
Of the 4,136 deaths for Christian faith that the List reports, Nigeria accounts for about 90 per cent of these (3,731).
The publication of the annual league table comes just weeks after Jeremy Hunt, the UK foreign secretary, said the UK “must do more” to help persecuted Christians and ordered an independent review to assess if the British Government is doing enough.
Speaking ahead of the list’s launch, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “People of all faiths and none should have the freedom to believe what they choose, but that is clearly not the case across too much of the world. Today’s figures published by Open Doors show that persecution of Christians has risen across the world in the last year, and more than 245 million Christians are experiencing persecution. I look forward to receiving the results of the review being carried out by the Bishop of Truro, to see how the UK can better support persecuted Christians wherever they are. Faith isn’t a crime, believers shouldn’t be treated as criminals, and the UK must fight for that to be the case across the world.”