Last week, Open Doors launched its 30th ever World Watch List – its guide to the 50 countries in the world where it is most dangerous and costly to be a Christian.

More than 90 MPs attended, and heard stories from persecuted Christians, research, and recommendations on global persecution – which is at its highest levels in 30 years. So, where are the current hotspots of persecution and how can we support and learn from our persecuted brothers and sisters in 2023?

Thousands more church attacks, large-scale displacement – and Christians paying the ultimate price

The top five countries where it is most dangerous to be a Christian are: North Korea, Somalia, Yemen, Eritrea and Libya.


Other startling trends identified in the research include:

  • Approximately 15 Christians were killed for their faith every single day last year. Almost 90% were in Nigeria, where violence continues to escalate.
  • Persecution is rising significantly in Latin America, with Nicaragua entering the top 50 for the first time.
  • More than 2,000 churches were attacked, closed down or looted – almost half of these were located in China, where many believers continue to meet secretly. China has clamped down further on Christians, introducing sweeping new rules on churches’ use of the internet.
  • 140,000 Christians have been displaced for faith-related reasons, the majority from Myanmar.
Chinese app store
Chinese phone showing Bible app now removed from app stores

North Korea returns to number one on the list, with a persecution score’ of 98/100 – the highest ever received in World Watch List research. Timothy Cho* from North Korea attended the event and said, The [North Korean] régime aims to wipe out every Christian in the country… Christianity itself is seen as a national security risk, and every new piece of legislation targets Christians as the first to be eliminated.”

CEO of Open Doors UK and Ireland Henrietta Blyth said: In the last 30 years the number of countries scoring high enough points to be on the WWL has nearly doubled from 40 to 76. 1 in 7 Christians now experiences at least high levels of persecution and discrimination.

But there is always hope. While there is no question that life is becoming more difficult for Christians in many countries, against all the odds faith continues to grow when people are forced to choose between Jesus and the death of all they hold dear. Sustained pressure is refining the church.”

Smash and squeeze”: what the World Watch List has shown over 30 years

In recent years, the World Watch List has shed light on the smash and the squeeze’ of persecution. Not only are there huge numbers of violent attacks, but Christians are also being squeezed by harsh regulations which make life incredibly difficult, whether in relation to their government, livelihood, community or family.

Clearly, the insights we read in the World Watch List require that we in the UK respond in prayer and action.

"We should not think that we can solve persecution with the list. We can, however, help persecuted Christians to stand strong to proclaim the testimony of Jesus."

In our time, the gospel has reached almost all countries,” says Open Doors researcher Wybo Nicolai. Then, according to the Bible, the hatred of all nations will be directed against Christians: persecution is no longer regional or national, but global. We should not think that we can solve persecution with the list. We can, however, help persecuted Christians to stand strong to proclaim the testimony of Jesus.”

In 2023, will we strengthen what remains”?

The death of Open Doors’ founder Brother Andrew in September last year sent waves across the Christian community as so many across the church fondly remembered his ministry, and shared how he inspired them with his incredible legacy of brave and faithful service to the persecuted church. The Bible verse which Brother Andrew heard the Lord call to him many years ago, Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die,” feels as urgent as ever to the church as we see persecution rising globally.

Pastor Andrew burned church
Pastor with church burned down in Jihadi attack

Despite the shocking levels of persecution, there is still hope, as the church continues to grow around the world. Open Doors have shared a story of a gathering in the Philippines where 36 people gave their lives to Jesus and were baptised! This news, and the faith and endurance of those gathering despite the struggle they face as Christians should challenge the UK church not to take our freedoms for granted.

Alicia Edmund, head of public policy here at the Evangelical Alliance, says, In Christ, we are made one with believers from around the world. Open Doors World Watchlist (WWL) is a painful reminder of how millions suffer for freedoms we take for granted here in the UK.

Why not use the WWL as a morning devotional or prayer study in your small groups? By drawing alongside them in prayer, we will be moved to advocate for political and global change.”

Three ways to respond now:

  • Explore the World Watch List and intercede for Christians in the most difficult of circumstances. Thank God that the church continues to grow despite intense opposition.
  • Check the list on this page to see if your MP attended the launch – if not, send them the World Watch List report to raise their awareness of the issues and what action they can take.
  • Be inspired by the bravery of the persecuted church and use your freedom to share the good news of Jesus today.

*Name changed for security reasons