Nigeria ranks number One in the list of countries where Christians were killed for reasons related to their faith. Nigeria ranks number Nine amongst the top 50 countries where Christians are persecuted mostly. Nigeria ranks number Two, second to Pakistan, in terms of countries where Christians suffer violence most.
The rankings and the lists are presented by the 2021 World Watch List (WWL): the latest annual accounting from Open Doors of the top 50 countries where Christians are the most persecuted for following Jesus.
This year’s top 10 worst persecutors are North Korea followed by Afghanistan, followed by Somalia, Libya, Pakistan, Eritrea, Yemen, Iran, Nigeria, and India.
Sudan left the top 10 for the first time in six years, after abolishing the death penalty for apostasy and guaranteeing — on paper at least — freedom of religion in its new constitution after three decades of Islamic law. Yet it remains No. 13 on the list, as Open Doors researchers noted Christians from Muslim backgrounds still face attacks, ostracization, and discrimination from their families and communities, while Christian women face sexual violence in Sudan.
(This switch among the top 10 echoes the decision of the United States State Department in December to add Nigeria and remove Sudan from its Countries of Particular Concern list. The list names and shames governments which have “engaged in or tolerated systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom”.
India remains in the top 10 for the third year in a row because it “continues to see an increase in violence against religious minorities due to government-sanctioned Hindu extremism”.
Meanwhile, China joined the top 20 for the first time in a decade, due to “ongoing and increasing surveillance and censorship of Christians and other religious minorities”.
Of the top 50 nations:
* 12 have “extreme” levels of persecution and 38 have “very high” levels. Another 4 nations outside the top 50 also qualify as “very high”: Cuba, Sri Lanka, United Arab Emirates, and Niger.
* 19 are in Africa (6 in North Africa), 14 are in Asia, 10 are in the Middle East, 5 are in Central Asia, and 2 are in Latin America.
* 34 have Islam as the main religion, 4 have Buddhism, 2 have Hinduism, 1 has atheism, 1 has agnosticism— and 10 have Christianity.
The 2021 list added four new countries: Mexico (No. 37), the Democratic Republic of Congo (No. 40), Mozambique (No. 45), and Comoros (No. 50).
Mozambique rose 21 spots (up from No. 66) “due to extremist Islamic violence in the northern province of Cabo Delgado.”
The Democratic Republic of Congo rose 17 spots (up from No. 57) “mainly due to attacks on Christians by the Islamist group ADF.”
Mexico rose 15 spots (up from No. 52) due to rising violence and discrimination against Christians from drug traffickers, gangs, and indigenous communities.
Four countries dropped off the list: Sri Lanka (formerly No. 30), Russia (formerly No. 46), United Arab Emirates (formerly No. 47), and Niger (formerly No. 50).
Every day, 13 Christians worldwide are killed because of their faith.
Every day, 12 churches or Christian buildings are attacked.
And every day, 12 Christians are unjustly arrested or imprisoned, and another 5 are abducted.
However, David Curry, president, and CEO of Open Doors USA said: “You might think the [list] is all about oppression. … But the [list] is really all about resilience. The numbers of God’s people who are suffering should mean the Church is dying — that Christians are keeping quiet, losing their faith, and turning away from one another. But that’s not what’s happening. Instead, in living colour, we see the words of God recorded in the prophet Isaiah: ‘I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” Isaiah 43:19.