Research Worldwide | 17 March 2023

The top 10 most dangerous places for Christians


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It’s hard to imagine the sheer scope of persecution against Christians. The latest World Watch List data suggest there are more than 360 million suffering from high levels of persecution and discrimination for their faith. While Christians living in every country on the 2023 World Watch List may experience difficulties because they follow Jesus, the nations at the top of the list represent the places where living as a Christian can be a daily struggle. These are places where simply living out your faith can mean oppression, discrimination, brutality and shocking acts of violence.

Here are the 10 places in the world where it’s hardest to be a Christian:

a village in North Korea behind barbed wire

1. North Korea

North Korea remains a brutally hostile place for Christians to live. If discovered by the authorities, believers are either sent to labor camps as political prisoners where the conditions are atrocious, or killed on the spot—and their families will share their fate as well. Christians have absolutely no freedom. It is almost impossible for believers to gather or meet to worship. Those who dare to meet must do so in utmost secrecy—and at enormous risk.


"Step by step, I realize how the Holy Spirit leads my life. I decide to put all things onto God’s hands."

"Yong-Gi," a North Korean Christian
A new "anti-reactionary thought law" makes it amply clear that being a Christian or possessing a Bible is a serious crime and will be severely punished. The reason for such extreme persecution is that Christianity is seen as a particular threat to the dictatorial ideology and governance of the country's barbaric regime. Christians are viewed as enemies of both the leadership and society in general.

A street scene in Somalia.

2. Somalia

Somalia is a majority Muslim nation, and society expects all Somalis to be Muslim. Imams in mosques and madrassas state publicly that there is no room for Christianity, Christians or churches. The violent insurgent group al-Shabaab has repeatedly expressed its desire to eradicate Christians from the country. Christians from Muslim backgrounds are regarded as high-value targets and may be killed on the spot if discovered.
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Christians also face serious persecution from their family and community. Leaving Islam is regarded as a betrayal of the family and clan, and family members and clan leaders will harass, intimidate and even kill Somali converts. Anyone even suspected of being a Christian convert is closely monitored by the elders in the community, and even by their own family members. "Church life" is simply not possible, so the few believers must meet in secret. Islamic militants have intensified their hunt for people who are Christian and in a position of leadership.

A mosque in Yemen

3. Yemen

It is extremely dangerous to be a Christian in Yemen, due to the country's strict Islamic laws and the presence of militant Islamic groups. The population is overwhelmingly Muslim, and it is illegal to convert from Islam to Christianity. Yemen is strongly tribal, and tribal law prohibits members of the tribe from leaving. Yemeni Christian converts are at great risk of being killed, not just ostracized or expelled, by their families, clans and tribes. Islamic extremist groups, such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group, threaten so-called “apostates” with death if they do not return to Islam

Most believers from a Muslim background choose to practice their faith covertly. They cannot gather together, because of the growing fear that neighbors will report them to the local authorities. Displaying Christian symbols could lead directly to imprisonment, physical abuse or even execution. All Yemenis are affected by the humanitarian crisis caused by the ongoing civil war, but Yemeni Christians are additionally vulnerable since emergency relief is mostly distributed through local Muslims and mosques, which allegedly discriminate against all who are not considered to be devout Muslims. (photo above from Unsplash)

A street scene in Asmara, the capital of Eritrea

4. Eritrea

For 20 years, Eritrea has only recognized three official Christian denominations: Orthodox, Catholic and Lutheran—even then, it closely monitors these churches. Over the years, government security forces have conducted hundreds of house-to-house raids to catch other Christians. There are thought to be 1,000 Christians indefinitely detained in Eritrean prisons, not officially charged with anything. The very high level of state-sanctioned persecution and violence against Christians forces some to flee the country, but despite all this the church is actually growing, as Christians show extreme courage and joy and embrace the risk of arrest for Jesus.
Christian men, women and children as young as 14 are conscripted into the armed forces to fight in the conflict in Tigray. There's no time limit on military service, and Eritrea does not allow conscientious objection. In fact, Christian prisoners are often” released” into military service instead of being allowed home.
A night scene in Libya

5. Libya

Libya is effectively a lawless land where both native Christians and those passing through from other countries face extreme violence. With no central government to maintain law and order, militant Islamic extremist groups and organized crime groups both wield power. They target and kidnap Christians, and some believers have been killed.

If a Libyan from a Muslim background becomes a Christian, they are likely to face intense pressure and abuse from their family and the wider community to make them renounce their faith, or even be killed. Christians who publicly express their faith and try to share the gospel with others are likely to face arrest or retribution from extremist groups. (photo above from Unsplash)

A market in Nigeria


6. Nigeria

Nigeria is the most violent country in the world for Christians. Attacks by Islamic militant groups have increased consistently since 2015, but the government has failed to prevent the rise in violence, which affects all Nigerians, but particularly Christians.

"We were working in the fields of our farm when armed men approached us. They kidnapped three of us. They later killed my two friends. I am the only one living."

"Agnes," a Nigerian Christian

The violence is most pervasive in the north, where militant groups, such as Boko Haram, ISWAP and Fulani militants, inflict murder, physical injury, abduction and sexual violence on their victims. Christians are dispossessed of their land and their means of livelihood. Many live as internally displaced people or refugees. In the Sharia states of northern Nigeria, Christians face discrimination and exclusion as second-class citizens. Christians from a Muslim background also face rejection from their own families, pressure to give up Christianity, and often physical violence. (photo above from Unsplash)

A man in Pakistan


7. Pakistan

Christians in Pakistan are considered second-class citizens and face discrimination in every aspect of life. Jobs that are seen as low, dirty and degrading are reserved for Christians by the authorities, who continue to push them to the margins of society. They lack proper representation in politics, and although there were no major attacks against churches last year, there are almost constant attacks against individuals. Many do not feel safe to worship freely.

Pakistan's notorious blasphemy laws target religious minorities (including Muslim minorities), but affect the Christian minority in particular—roughly a quarter of all blasphemy accusations target Christians, who only make up 1.8% of the population. The number of blasphemy cases is increasing, as is the number of Christian (and other minority religion) girls being abducted, abused and forcibly converted to Islam. (photo above from Unsplash)

A public square in Iran


8. Iran

Iran is ruled by an increasingly strict Islamic regime, which views the existence of Iranian house churches as an attempt by Western countries to undermine Islam and their authority. When people from Muslim backgrounds become Christians, they can only meet in secret house churches. They are at great risk of being monitored, harassed, arrested and prosecuted for “crimes against national security”—an accusation that is notoriously poorly defined, and can be abused. Iranian house church leaders and members have received long prison sentences involving physical and mental abuse.

When we were in solitary confinement, the only thing that strengthened us was prayer. Only God can go to those dark places and dungeons and be strength for His children.

Ali, an Iranian Christian living in Turkey

Iranian Christians may be banned from education, lose their jobs and find it very difficult to get back into employment. For women, the situation is even more precarious because Iranian law grants women few rights. For trusting in Jesus, they are likely to be violently punished or divorced by their husbands and have their children taken away from them, if their faith is discovered.

A bird's eye view of Kabul, Afghanistan

9. Afghanistan

The Taliban’s takeover of power in August 2021 has forced most Christians either further underground or away from the country entirely. Many (if not all) house groups in Afghanistan closed, with believers forced to leave behind everything they own. More than a year after the Taliban's takeover, any promises they made about recognizing freedoms have proved to be false. Following Jesus remains a death sentence, if discovered.

The rigid form of society imposed by the militant group leaves no room for deviation, meaning Christians— almost all of whom are converts from Islam— must keep their faith secret. Leaving Islam is considered shameful and punishable by death under the prevailing Islamic law. Consequently, Christian converts face dire and violent consequences if their new faith is discovered, even from family members who must save “honor” by getting rid of them. (photo above from Unsplash)

A young boy in Sudan


10. Sudan

Persecution of Christians remains at a high level in Sudan, and there are fears this will worsen amid the ongoing unrest. Mass protests led to the resignation of Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok in January 2022, and there are fears that Sudan will return to the authoritarian years of the former president, Omar al-Bashir. 

Social attitudes towards Christians have not changed. This is especially the case in areas outside the capital, Khartoum. Christians are still vulnerable to extreme persecution from both their communities and their own families, particularly if they have converted from Islam. Converts may face sexual assault and domestic violence in their homes, as well as being vulnerable to imprisonment and violence. (photo above from Unsplash)


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