Open Doors launched its World Watch List Report in Parliament on Thursday, 15 January. The World Watch List is the annual ranking of the 50 countries where the persecution of Christians is most extreme in the world.

Its conclusions make difficult reading. One in eight Christians worldwide face persecution measured as extreme, very high or high — a six per cent increase from 2019. Violations of freedom of religion or belief were often reported in the course of last year – the case of Asia Bibi, for example. In addition, the subject featured in Labour, Conservative, and Liberal Democrat election manifestos.

North Korea remains the most dangerous place for Christians, having been number one on the World Watch list from the beginning in 2002. Simply to be a Christian in North Korea remains a political crime. However, persecution takes many subtler forms. Open Doors measures this across a number of different spheres of life, covering violent and non-violent persecution, whether from the state or from other groups. 

In several countries, persecution has worsened dramatically over the past year. For example, Burkina Faso has risen 33 places on the list and is now at 28, due to the violence of Islamist militants. Bangladesh has also risen significantly due to increased surveillance and attacks on the Christian community. 


The launch in Parliament was well-attended by MPs of all parties, who often came in response to encouragement by their constituents. At the start of this new Parliament, with many new MPs finding their feet, now is an important time to ask what our MPs can do for freedom of religion or belief around the world. 

The event included speakers from countries experiencing persecution. One of the speakers was Pastor Abdalla, who serves a church of 600 in Aleppo, Syria, more of his story can be read on the Open Doors UK website. Another was Pastor Sunil, an Open Doors worker in Sri Lanka who was one of the first to respond after the bombing of three churches and three hotels on Easter Sunday 2019 – an attack which killed 259 people. Since then, he has been working to help survivors rebuild their lives. Syria is number 11 on the World Watch List, while Sri Lanka stands at 25

Please do keep in touch with your MPs to let them know your concern for this issue. At the launch Rehman Chishti, the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief, spoke in response to the report. He reaffirmed the Government’s concern for religious freedom, and restated its commitment to act on the 2019 Truro Review on FCO support for persecuted Christians.

The World Watch List Report concludes with recommendations. These include the following:

  • The Department for International Development should look afresh at how it can fund and build the capacity of local faith-based organisations, as those on the ground are often best placed to respond to need.
  • The Government must recognise that women from religious minorities are vulnerable to sexual violence, and to cover faith in its Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative 2020.
  • The British Government should work with the Government of Nigeria and with civil society groups in that country to address the crisis in northern Nigeria, in which Christians are particularly vulnerable to violence.
  • In its trade negotiations following the UK’s departure from the European Union, the Government should use the opportunity to champion human rights, particularly with countries listed on the World Watch List.

You can read the Open Doors World Watch List here: