I was delighted to once again attend the Open Doors event in Westminster to hear first hand the disturbing and distressing accounts of Christians from various parts of the world, describing the persecution they suffer because of their faith. This charity works in over 60 countries, working to assist and protect Christians who suffer persecution for their faith, training church leaders, providing practical support, literacy programmes, livelihood support and advocacy services and emergency relief. Open Doors works to raise awareness of global persecution of Christians. We know that in societies were some freedoms are threatened, all freedoms are ultimately threatened. Open Doors has revealed that: authoritarian states are clamping down and using legal regulations to control religion; ultra-nationalists are depicting Christians as ‘alien’ or ‘western’ and trying to drive them out and that radical Islam has moved from the Middle East to sub-Saharan Africa.
Open Doors understands persecution as 'any hostility experienced as a result of one's identification with Christ’.
Hostility, of course, takes many forms, from insults and abuse, to discrimination in education and the workplace, to outright violence. Open Doors researchers characterise the different types as ‘smash’ and ‘squeeze’. When it comes to killing off people’s faith, we might say it’s the difference between being beaten to death and being suffocated.
Christians are ‘smashed’ through violence or aggression – rapes, kidnappings, forcible evictions, killings and church burnings. This kind of persecution is most visible to the outside world. But the majority of persecuted Christians are being ’squeezed’ to death. They live in societies where everything is against them – the law, the government, the media, even their own families.
The World Watch List is Open Doors’ annual ranking of the 50 countries where Christians face the most extreme persecution. Published every January, it is a unique, in-depth record of the places where faith in Jesus costs the most, helping to demonstrate the enormous scale of the persecution being faced by Christians around the world.
Measuring the scale and severity of persecution is a complex task. It is not always clear if and to what extent pressure felt by Christians, or even violence against them, is directly related to them being Christian. Sometimes, just living in a chaotic world creates substantial amounts of suffering for Christians and others alike.
The World Watch List 2019 figures are from the reporting period 1 November 2017 - 31 October 2018. Research methods and results have been independently audited by the International Institute for Religious Freedom (IIRF).
This global survey is based on a comprehensive scoring system that measures the degree of freedom Christians have to live out their faith in five spheres of life - private, family, community, national and church life - plus a sixth sphere measuring levels of violence.
The methodology provides 'persecution points' for each sphere. As a result of the World Watch List process, each country gets a specific final score and is ranked accordingly. You can see this ranking for this year by clicking the link below: