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News: Church closures, attacks spike worldwide, WWL 2024 reports

A fence with razor wire is seen protecting the border on the Yalu river north of the border city of Dandong, Liaoning province, northern China across from the city of Sinuiju, North Korea in Dandong, China. North Korea remained the country where it is most dangeous to be a Christian, according to the World Watch List 2024. | Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

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By Jeff M. Sellers | Wednesday, January 17, 2024


Large numbers of churches were closed last year, with only four of Algeria’s 47 official Protestant congregations continuing and at least 10,000 churches shut down in China, according to Open Doors’ 2024 World Watch List (WWL) of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.

Among other significant findings, seven times more church buildings and other Christian properties came under attack last year than in 2022, according to the WWL report released on Wednesday (Jan. 17) – 14,766, up from 2,110 the prior period. The WWL reporting period was from Oct. 1, 2022 to Sept. 30, 2023.

The number of attacks on churches and Christian-run schools, hospitals and cemeteries has exploded in 2023,” the report stated. “It’s been driven by mob violence in India, church closures in China, and attacks in Nigeria, Nicaragua and Ethiopia.”

While violence against believers remained rare in China, church closures and raids continued to happen, “with pressure across all parts of life steadily rising,” the report stated. “This year, the government passed regulations requiring churches to post signs that read, ‘Love the Communist Party; Love the country; Love the religion.’”

More than twice as many Christians were forced to flee their homes compared with the previous year as war, as religious extremism, political instability and natural disasters hit them in the Middle East and North Africa, according to the report.

As in last year’s list, North Korea was the most dangerous place in the world for Christians.

Being discovered as a follower of Jesus is effectively a death sentence,” the report stated. “In 2023, the country strengthened its border with China so it’s now harder for Christians to flee and harder for support to reach them.”

Among the countries where conditions worsened was Algeria, which moved up four places on the list to No. 15.

State pressure on Protestant Christians has increased to a level not seen in years,” the report stated. “While recent years have witnessed multiple church closures (and those churches have remained closed), the tactics seemed to change. Instead of officially sealing church buildings as in recent years, the government began threatening church leaders with prosecution if their churches did not cease meeting.”

Some churches stopped meeting out of fear of the Algerian government crackdown, and several Christians received suspended prison sentences. Islamic extremist teachers exert influence over state authorities, leading to Christians, especially converts from Islam, suffering persecution from their families and communities as well from government officials.

Other countries making notable jumps were Nicaragua from No. 50 to No. 30, owing in large part to official hostility toward churches, and Oman from No. 47 to No. 31, with reasons withheld for security reasons.

Nigeria remained the deadliest place to follow Christ, accounting for 82 percent of the 4,998 Christians murdered for their faith in 2023. More than 4,100 Christians were killed in Nigeria, which remained at No. 6 on the list.

Sub-Saharan Africa remained the epicenter of both Christian growth and persecution, said Open Doors US CEO Ryan Brown.

It’s heartbreaking to hear about what our brothers and sisters in Christ are experiencing in Nigeria and other parts of Sub-Saharan Africa,” Brown said. “Most of us can’t imagine what it’s like to live in fear for our very lives because of our faith in Christ, but what a testimony these faithful believers are to the rest of us.”

Throughout the world, 13 Christians a day lost their lives for their faith, according to the WWL report.

In total, 365 million Christians live in nations with high levels of persecution or discrimination (up from 360 million in the prior reporting period) – one in seven worldwide. That includes one in five in Africa, two in five in Asia and one in 16 in Latin America, according to the report.

All 50 of the countries where it is most dangerous to be a Christian scored “very high” persecution levels on Open Doors’ rating system – as did seven others that fell outside the top 50.

Laos made a large jump for the worse, from No. 31 in 2023 to No. 21 on this year’s list.

This is largely due to a sharp rise in violence,” the report stated. “After many years without any Christians being killed for their faith, four were killed during the period analyzed. This has had a chilling effect on the wider church (for example, pastors deciding not to travel alone for ministry engagements, but in pairs), which in turn increased the pressure faced by believers in all spheres of life.”

Among the top 10, Somalia remained at No. 2. Libya went from No. 5 last year to third in 2024, replacing Yemen, which ended at No. 5. Somalia remained at No. 2 and Eritrea at No. 4, while Sudan went from 10th in last year’s list to No. 8 this year. Iran went from No. 8 to No. 9, and Afghanistan went from No. 9 to No. 10 in this year’s ranking. India remained at No. 11.

In terms of where Christians face most violence, Nigeria led the list followed by Pakistan and India. Attacks on Christian homes in India doubled to 180, and deaths were nine times higher at 160. Significantly, assaults on churches and Christian schools in India spiked to 2,228 from 67 the previous period.

AfterChina and India’s high number of attacks on or closures of churches and other Christian properties was Nigeria with 750.


While Nigeria again led the world in the number of Christians killed, the country with the second highest number was the Democratic Republic of Congo with 261, followed by India with the aforementioned 160. Uganda, which at 70th place did not make the top 50, was next with 55 recorded killings, followed by Myanmar with 34, Burkina Faso with 31, Cameroon with 24, the Central African Republic with 23 and Colombia with 16.

The nearly 5,000 deaths worldwide represented a drop of more than 600 from the previous reporting period in Open Doors’ conservative estimates. Still, the decrease of 11 percent remained the third highest since the 2016 tally of 7,106 deaths.

Overall, Christians beaten or threatened increased from 29,411 reported cases in the prior period to 42,849. Attacks on Christian homes rose 371 percent, from 4,547 to 21,431. Christians forced out of their home or into hiding more than doubled, from 124,310 to 278,716.

“As Christian persecution rises to the most significant levels in history, there’s an opportunity for us as believers to come alongside and support our brothers and sisters in Christ as they are enduring persecution for the sake of the gospel,” Brown of Open Doors US said.


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