North Korea was recognized as having the highest level of Christian persecution around the world, according to a new study.
Open Doors US is an organization that tracks the persecution of Christians around the world. This week, the organization released its annual report of 50 countries where Christians experience the most extreme levels of discrimination for their faith.
Lisa Pearce, the interim CEO of Open Doors US said on Wednesday that the Open Doors World Watch List provides a global annual snapshot of where Christians are being persecuted and how.
The 2023 list was made up of contributions of 4,000 individuals around the world.
“Very often, persecution of Christians is happening underground, in hidden or very rural communities,” Pearce said. “Persecution often increases by stealth. The Open Doors World Watch Unit refers to the ‘smash’ and the ‘squeeze’ of persecution.”
She explained that the smash of big incidents catches the headlines because they affect the most people. The squeeze, on the other hand, is the limiting of rights of Christians and other minorities when it comes to finding employment, excluding Christian youth from education, and beatings in rural towns.
The number one country where Christians are being persecuted the most is North Korea, and according to the watch list, the country has the highest levels of persecution ever seen.
The high score reflects an increase in arrests of Christians and house-churches discovered getting closed.
Somalia reportedly came in second and Yemen came in third.
Afghanistan made the ninth spot, and in previous years had ranked higher. Open Doors said fewer Afghan Christians were killed for their faith in 2022, as many left the country or were killed when the Taliban regained control.
Also notable was China, which ranked 16th. The organization said China’s use of digital surveillance technology is adding to persecution and intimidation, and as the tools become more sophisticated, the communist government employed censorship, disinformation and surveillance to gain control over the religious groups.
Open Doors reported that last year, 5,621 Christians were killed because of their faith, and 90% of those deaths were in Nigeria alone.
Nigeria ranked sixth on the list, and the organization noted that the increase in violence in the country has only caused more Christians to lose their lives over the last five years.
“I would emphasize again, persecution of Christians is now a global phenomenon, and it requires a global response,” Pearce said. “I urge each of us to do what we can to be alongside them, to pray for and support them, and to use the influence we have to speak up for their right to live out their faith.”
Wybo Nicolai, the founder of the World Watch List and former global field director for Open Doors said one of the three primary goals of the organization is to inform the global “Body of Christ” about the persecution situation.
“The WWL is an excellent tool for this goal, as it is trying to describe levels of persecution as objective as possible,” Nicolai said. “The Biden administration has taken off Nigeria of the list of countries of special interest with regards to freedom of religion. Nigeria is the country with the highest number of martyrs in 2022 -over 4,000 Nigerians lost their life due to their faith in Jesus. It would be logical and a great initiative to reverse this decision.”