One Christian in eight is discriminated against in the world


One in eight Christians in the world suffers persecution because of their faith, 260 million people. This is the figure that emerges from the Global Watch List 2020 of the NGO Open Doors, presented on January 15 at the Italian Chamber of Deputies.

The letter "N" for "Nazarene", symbol of the persecuted Christians in the Middle East  Image: Vatican News
The letter "N" for "Nazarene", symbol of the persecuted Christians in the Middle East Image: Vatican News

The report analyzes events in the world from November 1, 2018, to October 31 in 100 countries potentially affected by the phenomenon and shows how, compared to last year, Christians discriminated against at a level defined as "high", "very high" and "extreme" have increased by 15 million.

The number of Christians killed is decreasing

The number of Christians killed decreased (from 4,305 to 2,983), with Nigeria being the most dangerous country for Christians due to attacks by the Fulani tribes and the Islamists of Boko Haram. In second place is the Central African Republic at war and in third place Sri Lanka, where more than 200 people died at Easter 2019.

Excluded from public life and persecuted in private

"Deaths and murders have decreased, but that usually changes depending on the year and therefore it is a very fluctuating data," explains Cristian Nani, director of Open Doors. However, what is constant is the increasing pressure on private and public life in the community and in the Church. 

"According to several parameters that we analyze - discrimination, violence, exclusion from work, health and medical care, laws that prohibit the existence of Christians or laws against conversions that are used against Christians," explains Nani, "all this together leads to increased pressure in many states. In at least 73 countries Christians are experiencing a high level of persecution.

North Korea and Afghanistan the most dangerous countries

In fact, there are 11 countries where persecution against Christians is defined as "extreme". In the first place, for the eighteenth consecutive year, there is North Korea, where, according to Open Doors, there are between 50,000 and 70,000 Christians detained in labor camps because of their faith.

Then come the countries that have been at war for years and have a very high Islamic fundamentalist component such as Afghanistan, Somalia, and Libya, followed by Pakistan where, in the year of the liberation of Asia Bibi, the law against blasphemy is still in force.

The situation in the Sahel is getting worse

For the first time, Burkina Faso and Cameroon are among the top 50 countries in terms of discrimination against Christians, testifying to the difficult situation in the Sahel area, where at least 27 Jihadi groups are operating. In northern Burkina Faso, more than 200 churches have been closed.

"One of the essential points on the agenda of these movements is, however, the elimination of the Christian presence," explains Nani again: "They arrive in the villages of northern Burkina Faso giving an ultimatum of three days to the Christian families to disappear from the place. If this does not happen after three days, they are killed.

In Iraq and Syria Christians risk disappearance

The persecution of Christians in the Middle East has been going on for years. In Iraq, before the 2003 war, there were one and a half million. Today there are about 200,000 and the return to the Nineveh plains after the expulsion of the Islamic State is also difficult due to the lack of security conditions. In Syria, which has been at war for nine years, the number of Christians has increased from more than 2 million to 744,000.

More than 8,000 abuses against Christian women

In general, almost ten thousand churches have been closed or attacked, while more than eight thousand cases of abuse of women due to religious discrimination are reported. "This is the tip of the iceberg," says Nani, "because we still cannot track these phenomena, such as forced marriages. The estimates, she says, are "that at least 23 Christian women suffer sexual violence every day" as such.

Latin America

Finally, the situation in Latin America, where priests and faithful who challenge organized crime in countries like Colombia and Mexico risk their lives.

By Mexicanist