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

The Background

Open Doors has been monitoring the worldwide persecution of Christians since the 1970s. Since 1992 detailed data on the persecution of Christians has been gathered and publishedThe World Watch List (WWL) methodology has gradually evolved and was comprehensively revised in 2012 by Open Doors’ research unit, World Watch Research (WWR)in order to provide greater credibility, transparency, objectivity and academic quality. Further refinements are regularly made. 

A definition of persecution

There is no international, legal definition of persecution. Situations can be defined as persecution where persons experience the denial of the rights listed in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However, the WWL methodology has opted for a theological rather than a sociological definition, and defines persecution as “any hostility experienced as a result of one’s identification with Christ. This can include hostile attitudes, words and actions towards Christians”.

This broad definition includes (but is not limited to) restrictions, pressure, discrimination, opposition, disinformation, injustice, intimidation, mistreatment, marginalisation, oppression, intolerance, infringement, violation, ostracism, hostilities, harassment, abuse, violence, ethnic cleansing and genocide.

The WWL methodology defines ‘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”.

How the WWL is compiled

The WWL methodology distinguishes between 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 5 specific spheres of life; private life, family life, community life, national life and church life.

After a series of initial research enquiries, a questionnaire consisting of 84 questions (covering the reporting period 1 November – 31 September) is filled out by researchers in (and those externally involved with) 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 is taken into consideration. Different persecution engines, persecution drivers and a distinct persecution pattern become visible for analysis. An audit is made by the International Institute for Religious Freedom (IIRF) to confirm that all results have been calculated according to WWL methodology. 

A final score is calculated for each country which is then used to determine the order of countries scoring 41 points or more (i.e., countries experiencing high, very high or extreme levels of persecution) in the annually published World Watch List. 

The most important reason for ranking countries is to be able to present a complex reality to the broader public. Both ranking and final score must always be viewed in conjunction with the corresponding WWL country dossier which individually explains the persecution situation of a country in more depth. 

The degrees of persecution are reflected by grades of persecution:

(81 – 100 points)

(61 – 80 points)

*61 = Entry point for WWL 2023

World Watch List Prayer Updates

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 a pdf with relevant prayer points. Use it to help you pray or use it in a PowerPoint in church services, announcements or presentations. If you would like to receive these weekly emails, please complete the form below.

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