Persecution Advocacy | 26 January 2023

The Top 10 countries where it is most dangerous to follow Jesus


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Every year, Open Doors compiles the World Watch List, an authoritative ranking of the 50 nations in the world where Christians face the most severe persecution. These are the 10 countries that top that list for 2023.

#10  Sudan


The Sudanese government has pledged to shift away from its old repressive laws – but its actions have failed to match its words. The persecution of Christians has actually increased since the fall of the al-Bashir regime. Christians who dare to speak openly about their faith face being attacked by Islamic extremists.

#9 – Afghanistan


Almost every Christian in Afghanistan comes from a Muslim background. They risk being killed by the Taliban – or even their own families – for changing their faith. Many Christians have fled. If the violence against Christians has decreased, it is simply because there are fewer of them left in the country.

#8 – Iran 

The Islamist government regards Christian converts as enemies of the state and their conversion as a deliberate ploy by the West to undermine Iran and its government. Church leaders – and any ordinary Christians who support believers from a Muslim background – are arrested, tried and sentenced to long prison terms for “crimes against national security”. Only the traditional Armenian and Assyrian churches are recognized by the state. But even their members are treated as second-class citizens and suffer discrimination. 

#7 – Pakistan


Christians and other religious minorities find themselves targeted by the country’s notorious blasphemy laws. They are discriminated against by government institutions. The dirtiest and most menial occupations are “reserved” for Christians, so many are poor, fall into debt and get trapped in bonded labour. Girls and young women from Christian and Hindu backgrounds are abducted and forced to marry to make them to convert to Islam.

#6 – Nigeria


In northern Nigeria, a great number of Christians are murdered, physically injured, raped, sexually abused, deprived of their livelihoods and forced to live as internally displaced persons. The violence has increased in recent years, spreading to southern states and leading to heightened insecurity for Nigeria’s Christians. Christian communities that come under attack are often abandoned by the security forces.

#5 – Libya


Violence against Christians in Libya, a country plagued by anarchy, remains very high. They are targeted by Islamist extremists and organized criminal gangs – who exploit, kidnap, rape, enslave and kill them. This lawlessness leaves Christians vulnerable to hostility and violent attacks. Christian converts face severe persecution from their own families.

#4 – Eritrea


Eritrea’s single-party state does whatever it takes to cling onto power. It has harassed, arrested and killed Christians considered critical of the regime – describing them as “agents of the West”. Muslims who convert to Christianity are regarded as traitors and are at risk – even from their own families. The Orthodox Church considers Christians of other denominations as outsiders. Yet Orthodox Christians also experience violence, intolerance and discrimination from their government. 

#3 – Yemen


Most Christians in Yemen come from a Muslim background. The authorities, Islamist extremists and their own families persecute and threaten these “apostates” from Islam with death. So most live out their faith in secret. The humanitarian crisis continues to grip the country. And Christians suffer disproportionately as relief aid is distributed mainly via the mosques, which favor devout Muslims.

#2 – Somalia


Christians are targeted by Islamist al-Shabaab fighters. Those who are discovered are often killed on the spot. Muslims who turn to Christ are considered to have betrayed their family, clan and the larger Somali people and culture. The merest suspicion that someone has adopted the Christian faith can put their life at risk.

#1 – North Korea


Kim Jong-un and his regime regard Christianity as a threat to their power. Anyone exposed as a Christian can be killed outright or thrown into one of the country’s notorious labor camps, where hunger and violence are used to break their wills. Entire families of Christians may be targeted for reprisals by the authorities. 

Yet despite the severe persecution we see in the top 10, the Church continues to persevere and even grow in some countries. For more information on the challenges faced by persecuted Christians around the world, explore our interactive map and find out what other countries made it to the World Watch List Top 50.