Violence in Sub-Saharan Africa reaches new heights
Weak nations and inept governments have exacerbated several violent trends that endanger the Church. It’s fertile ground for jihadism, which has given military juntas a reason to overthrow governments in some countries. Meanwhile, Christians have fled to displacement camps or other countries due to jihadists who aspire to spread Sharia law across the continent.
China’s model gains a growing number of emulators
China is forging international alliances to redefine human rights globally, with China’s economic progress appealing to many world leaders who, regardless of ideology, are drawn to China’s promise of growth and prosperity while controlling deviant groups and individuals. Many regimes that emulate China detest Christians, especially Christian activists who challenge their control over citizens.
China’s digital control threatens the Church
Digital tools, along with the Chinese government, have advanced. Beijing adopted extensive new internet rules for churches in March 2022, using the Covid-19 pandemic for censorship, disinformation, and surveillance to control religious groups. The online space tightened for the average Chinese citizen, especially Christian citizens, who are seen as Western allies.
The Church continues to be weakened in the Middle East
The Christian Church continues to dwindle in the Middle East. It has been unable to recover after the upsurge of the Islamic State, despite a reduction in the number of Christians killed in recent years. One exception is Syria (12), which has seen a wave of violent incidents in the WWL 2023 reporting period. Meanwhile, discrimination and oppression coupled with crippling economic decline means the Church in the Middle East is losing hope, particularly for young people.
In Latin America organised crime takes hold and has even increased the space they claimed during the Covid pandemic
In many countries in Latin America, corrupt and ineffective governments have created space for criminal groups and ethnic leaders to emerge and become strong. As a result, organised crime has taken hold with criminal groups becoming drivers of persecution as Christians speak out against the cartels’ activities, especially in rural areas.
The main changes on the list since WWL 2023 are:
- Afghanistan drops to no. 9 on the WWL after it was no. 1 last year. However, persecution remains extreme for Afghan Christian converts. The large drop in its ranking is because convert life has gone deeper underground – which created a bigger challenge to obtain verified violence data.
- North Korea rises to no. 1 again with its highest ever persecution score. This reflects an increase in arrests of Christians and more underground house churches discovered and closed.
- Mali rises to no. 17 due to an increase in pressure in many spheres of life.
- Qatar drops to no. 34. This was caused by the fact that no additional churches were forced to close in the WWL 2023 reporting period. However, many churches closed in the previous reporting period remained shut.
- Comoros re-enters the list at no. 42 due to an increase in the levels of pressure exerted by the government and the community. The government has said in public that there is no freedom of religion for Comorians but only for non-Comorians residing in the country.
- Nicaragua enters the top 50 at no. 50 for the first time. Direct government oppression against Christians seen as voices of opposition is rife in Nicaragua.
- Nepal falls out of the WWL due to a decrease in pressure and violence.
- The combined total score for violence for all 26 Sub-Saharan countries that scored at least 41 total points on the Open Doors WWL, increased by 8%. Half of those countries have violence scores in the “extremely high” range.
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