Afghanistan is the world’s most dangerous place for Christians, displacing North Korea for the first time in 20 years in a Christian advocacy group’s annual report.
Open Doors released its 2022 World Watch List on Wednesday, identifying 50 countries where as many as 100 million Christians face danger because of their faith. Nigeria and India are among the top 10 nations on the list, and China is ranked 17.
“There are just so many people [globally], 360 million Christians by our estimate, [who] live in places where there are high extreme or severe levels of persecution,” said Open Doors President David Curry, whose organization has operated for more than 60 years.
“Christians are the largest minority religion, persecuted minority religion in the world. I think people overlook it, because in America, we have so many freedoms,” he added.
There were about 2.38 billion Christians in 2020, making it the most widely practiced religion, according to estimates by the World Population Review, a global compilation of census and demographic data. There were about 1.91 billion Muslims, 1.16 billion Hindus and 507 million Buddhists.
Mr. Curry said there are far more underground Christians in North Korea than there are in post-Taliban Afghanistan, but the Islamist resurgence means there are “clear and present dangers for people of Christian faith in Afghanistan.”
“The failure in Afghanistan has massive repercussions,” he said, adding that the “massive refugee issue” sparked by the takeover means the Taliban will seek to kill those “suspected to be Christians” as well as those “from a different political background.”
In October, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom reported that conditions for religious minorities in Afghanistan “have deteriorated since the Taliban seized control.”
An Afghan Christian refugee who used the alias of “Paul” told an Open Doors interviewer that, for believers, “You’re always living inside the cage. You are always limited. You have always a fear in your heart.”
“I think supporting those people who need to get out of Afghanistan is critically important,” along with helping those who already have left to legally immigrate to safer nations, Mr. Curry said.
He said North Korea remains very dangerous for Christians. He urged the United States to press for open inspections of the nation’s labor camps, where Christians and others are held.
“I think that sort of thing needs to be tied to nuclear discussions,” he said.
Open Doors reported 5,898 Christians were known to have been killed for their faith in 2021, an 24% increase over 2020. About 79% of those killings (4,650) occurred in Nigeria. About 11% (620 killings) took place in Pakistan.
The conflict between Christians and Islamists in Nigeria has “totally spun out of control” since 2014, and the country now lacks “a strong central government that wants to stand up to these Islamic extremists in the northern territories of their country,” Mr. Curry said.
He said Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, are responsible for “a nationalistic agenda, which has created a narrative that Christians are the enemy and [then] embolden mobs” to attack believers.
In India, “local governments look the other way,” while 1,310 Christians were unlawfully detained in the nation last year “for faith-related reasons. They’re just in prison for three weeks, four weeks, and questioned. I’ve seen pictures of pastors chained to a wall,” Mr. Curry said.
The complete list of nations on the group’s radar can be found online at http://www.OpenDoorsUSA.org/World-Watch-List.