Although numbers haven’t changed substantially from the previous year, 2022 was the worst year for Christians worldwide, due to an intensifying level of violence discrimination and exclusion, according to the latest World Watch List released by Open Doors, a watchdog group that advocates for Christians.
The study revealed that “the number of persecuted Christians reached a total of 360 million worldwide.”
The organization published an updated ranking of the top 50 countries in the world where Christians are most persecuted. North Korea tops the list, followed by Eritrea, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, and Sudan.
Despite the fact that most of its inhabitants profess the Christian religion, four Latin American nations have also made it to the list.
According to the study, Colombia is the most dangerous country for Christians in the Americas and ranks 22nd worldwide. Christians in rural areas “suffer persecution from their own indigenous communities.”
The Open Doors study noted that in Colombia, “armed guerrilla groups and gangs still control and fight over large parts of the national territory.”
For these groups, the Church is seen “as a threat to their power and stability, particularly when gang members become Christians or church leaders speak out against violence and corruption.”
The next Latin American country on the list of the most dangerous nations for Christians is Cuba, ranking 27th, where the Church is constantly persecuted by the communist regime.
“Christian activists or church leaders speaking out against corruption or political issues can be arrested and imprisoned,” the study notes.
“The authorities compile a database of churches and pastors considered ‘counterrevolutionaries,’ which these Christians fear will be another way to monitor and control them,” Open Doors explained.
Mexico ranks 38th on this list and is the third most-dangerous country for Christians in Latin America.
In the Aztec country there are some 150 organized crime gangs financed by powerful drug cartels.
The fourth Latin American country and last on the top 50 list is Nicaragua, which currently is ruled by the dictatorship of President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo.
“Roman Catholic churches are the most susceptible to [government] opposition,” Open Doors indicated.
In addition, “the government is particularly hostile to churches that provided shelter and care for people during the widespread protests that broke out against the country’s dictatorial regime in 2018.”
In North Korea, “Christianity is seen as a particular threat to the dictatorial ideology and governance of the country’s barbaric regime.”
Marco Cruz, director of Open Doors, believes that in order to address this extreme persecution “it’s necessary to know the reality that our brothers are facing,” he said.
In addition, he stressed the importance of responding to this violence “with extreme love.”
“This love prompts us to pray and act to respond to the needs of our brothers, helping them to remain steadfast in the love that casts out all fear,” he concluded.