Open Doors has released World Watch List 2024 (WWL), which ranks countries by the severity of persecution and discrimination endured by Christians living there. The 2024 list highlights the plight of Christians in sub-Saharan Africa, with more than 82 percent of Christians killed across the globe being in Nigeria (ranked #6), increased violence in India, and church closures and attacks in China and India. The list also details a 20-spot jump for Nicaragua, the impact of the Wagner Group in Mali, and confirms that North Korea remains the most dangerous country for Christians.
World Watch List 2024 highlights:
4,998 Christians were killed worldwide in faith-related attacks.
There was a seven-fold increase in attacks on churches, schools, and hospitals.
Christians beaten or threatened increased from 29,411 reported cases (WWL 2023) to 42,849.
Attacks on homes rose 371 percent from WWL 2023 figures.
The number of Christians forced from their homes or into hiding more than doubled.
365 million Christians face high levels of persecution and discrimination for their faith – up from last year’s figure of 360 million.
Sub-Saharan Africa: Twin problems of radical Islam and autocratic regimes
Faith-related killings in sub-Saharan Africa continue to far outstrip those of any other region on the annual list.
4,606 Christians were killed in 18 out of the 26 countries on the WWL 2024 that are south of the Sahara Desert.
Fifteen of these 26 countries reached the highest level of overall violence.
Intense violence in Ethiopia (ranked #32) saw the number of attacks on churches and schools grow sharply.
There was a surge in the number of Christian-owned businesses burned or looted in Burkina Faso (ranked #20) and the Central African Republic (ranked #28).
Fractures in governance and security across the African continent have opened the door for the jihadist activities seen in Burkina Faso, Mali (ranked #14), Mozambique (ranked #39), Nigeria, and Somalia (ranked #2).
“The threat from Islamic militants in sub-Saharan Africa has intensified to the point where many Christians in the region feel increasingly fearful,” says Frans Veerman, Managing Director of Open Doors World Watch Research. “Christians are purposefully targeted or extra vulnerable in a continent that is beset by the twin problems of radical Islamic elements and increasingly autocratic regimes. This is the ever-growing threat for Christians south of the Sahara Desert, and if left unchecked, these twin pressures are expected to overwhelm them and force them out of their homes and villages.
“Governments in the region need to take meaningful action to address the growing influence of jihadist groups and prioritize protecting the vulnerable from aggressors. Without this action, once thriving Christian communities will disappear.”
Mali and the Wagner Group: Government influence diminishing rapidly
The influence of the Wagner Group has significantly stifled the civic space for Christians. Speaking out against governmental injustices or the brutalities perpetrated by Wagner has become dangerous. The private army has not stopped Islamic militants, traffickers, and organized crime syndicates from operating with impunity, forcing Christians in Mali to gather under police protection.
India (ranked #11): Increased violence leading up to the 2024 elections
There was a substantial rise in the number of Christians killed and the number of churches, schools, and homes attacked during the WWL 2024 reporting period.
There was a nine-fold increase in Christian fatalities since WWL 2023.
There was an extreme rise in attacks on churches and Christian schools from 67 last year to 2,228
The number of Christian homes attacked has grown from 108 during the WWL 2023 reporting period to 5,900.
Church attacks/closures: China (ranked #19) and India worst offenders
These two countries comprise nearly 83 percent of attack and closure incidents on churches in all countries on the 2024 list.
An estimated 10,000 churches in China were closed. Large unregistered ‘house churches’ have been forced to splinter into less visible house groups, and many venues for state-approved churches were forced to close down and merge with larger churches.
Aggressive mobs attacked 2,228 churches in India.
Nicaragua: Ranked #30
Communist dictatorships in Latin America are increasingly hostile to the Church, and Nicaragua is no exception, jumping 20 places on the list. Ortega’s government has become more overt in how it represses religious freedom. In February 2023, the bishop of Matagalpa, Rolando Álvarez, a vocal defender of civic freedoms, was stripped of his citizenship and sentenced to 26 years in prison.
North Korea: Continues to rank #1
North Korea again holds the number one place on the World Watch List 2024. Christians are forced to practice their faith in complete secrecy. While reports of raids rarely reach international media, one example became known in April 2023 when five Christians gathered in a remote farmhouse for prayer only to find police had been tipped off by an informant and were waiting for them. The five Christians were arrested and now face years of hard labour.
Signs of hope
Mali: In June 2023, Malian voters approved a new constitution that could pave the way for the return to civilian rule. In the new constitution, there is clear recognition of the Christian minority in the country.
India: The Congress Party dislodged the Hindu-nationalist BJP in the spring 2023 elections in Karnataka state with a pledge to revise anti-conversion laws. Most anti-conversion laws have been introduced state-by-state by Narendra Modi’s BJP government since it became the ruling political party in India in 2014.
How does Open Doors speak up on behalf of persecuted Christians?
Open Doors’ supports Christians by protecting and promoting their right to freely believe, worship, and practice their faith alone or with others, free from intolerance and discrimination.
Open Doors calls on governments to provide protection from violent aggressors and ensure justice for victims and accountability for perpetrators. We ask governments to make these priorities in foreign policy and diplomatic engagement.
On March 19, 2024 there will be a Special Presentation of the 2024 World Watch List for Canadian Members of Parliament in Ottawa, ON. The event is co-sponsored by Hon. John McKay and MP Kelly Block. It is a crucial opportunity to inform the Canadian government about the current realities for more than 365 million Christians worldwide and engage them in championing policies that promote freedom of religion and protect persecuted believers.
Canadians can invite their Member of Parliament to attend at http://www.opendoorscanada.org/inviteyourmp.