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The Open Doors World Watch List is the only annual survey of the religious liberty conditions of Christians around the world. It is independently audited by the International Institute for Religious Freedom (IIRF) to help make the information gathering and calculation process more transparent.

The Background

Open Doors has been monitoring the worldwide persecution of Christians since the 1970s. The WWL methodology that gradually evolved during the 1980s and 1990s and was comprehensively revised in 2012 by Open Doors’ research unit, World Watch Research (WWR), provide greater credibility, transparency, objectivity and academic quality. Further refinements are regularly made.

The WWL defines a Christian as, “anyone who self-identifies as a Christian and/or someone belonging to a Christian community as defined by the Church’s historic creeds.” While persecution is defined as, “any hostility, experienced from the world, because of one’s identification with Christ. This can include hostile attitudes, words, and actions towards Christians.”

The WWL Methodology distinguishes two main expressions of persecution: squeeze (the pressure Christians experience in all areas of life) and smash (plain violence). While smash can be measured and tracked through the reporting of concrete incidents, squeeze is documented by discerning how Christian life and witness is placed under pressure in five specific spheres of life. The five spheres are private-, family-, community-, national- and church sphere.

How is the list compiled?

After a series of initial research enquiries, a questionnaire consisting of 84 questions (annually covering the reporting period of 1 November to 31 October) is filled out by Open Doors’ field staff and networks in countries experiencing persecution.

The completed questionnaires are cross-checked by input from external experts. Scores are calculated for each of the spheres of life with variables being taken into account. For instance, persecution can be worse for some categories of Christians than others, or much worse in some parts of a country than in others. Also, the intensity and frequency of persecution are taken into consideration. After this process, different persecution engines, persecution drivers and a distinct persecution pattern become visible for analysis. An audit is made by IIRF to confirm that all results have been calculated according to the WWL Methodology.

A final score is calculated for each country which is then used to determine the order of countries from position 1 to 50 on Open Doors’ annual World Watch List. The WWL scores make possible a detailed comparison of Christian life in the listed countries.

The most important reason for ranking countries is to be able to present a complex reality to the broader public. However, the WWL rankings must always be viewed in conjunction with the corresponding country’s Persecution Dynamics, which explain the particularities of the persecution situation.

The degrees of persecution are reflected by grades of persecution:

(100 to 81 points)

(80 to 61 points)

(60 to 57* points)

*57 = Entry point for WWL 2018


The World Watch List Prayer Updates focuses on the different countries on the Open Doors World Watch List. The weekly email provides a short overview of a country and relevant prayer points. PowerPoint® slides are also included, which can be used in church services, announcements or presentations. If you would like to receive these weekly emails, please complete below.

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