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Jesus promised that His followers would be hated by others and persecuted (Matthew 10). For some, this could mean being disowned by family and friends. For others, it could be a matter of life or death.

Christian persecution varies around the world, but all of it leads to pain and loss. For years, Open Doors has ranked the most dangerous countries for Christians through the World Watch List. Christians who live in these countries face harassment, assault, imprisonment, or even death for their faith.

After slipping from the No. 1 spot last year, North Korea has once again topped the list in 2023 as the country where Christians face the most persecution. Afghanistan, which ranked No. 1 in 2022, has slipped to the No. 9 spot, though Christian persecution remains at an all-time high in this nation.

The following statistics highlight Christian persecution in 2022:

  • One in seven Christians are persecuted worldwide.
  • More than 5,600 Christians were murdered.
  • More than 2,100 churches were attacked.
  • More than 4,500 Christians were detained.

One of the many ways Christians can help their persecuted brothers and sisters around the world is to pray for them. Prayer helps sustain them, encourages them, and lets them know that they are surrounded by the arms of the Father. 

Here are the top five countries on the 2023 World Watch List and ways to pray for believers there.

North Korea

It is illegal to follow Christ in North Korea; even owning a Bible will lead to consequences. Christians who are discovered are either sent to labor camps as government prisoners or are killed on the spot—and their families face the same fate. Christians who dare to gather together do so at incredible risk.

Here is how you can pray for believers in North Korea:

  • Pray that God would give believers peace and strength to endure any hardships they face.
  • Pray that Christians who choose to gather would be protected from discovery.
  • Pray that God would work in the hearts of North Korean leaders and turn them to Christ.


Islam is the reigning religion in Somalia, and all Somalis are expected to live as a Muslims. Those who leave Islam for Christianity are considered traitors, and their families or clans will threaten, assault, or even kill converts. Some Muslim Somalis vow to eradicate Christianity from the country.

Here is how you can pray for believers in Somalia:

  • Pray that believers would be protected from violent Islamic extremist groups.
  • Pray that God would comfort and strengthen Christians who have been disowned by their communities.
  • Pray that the gospel would spread and take root in the hearts of many Somalis.


In Yemen, it is illegal to convert from Islam to Christianity. Those who do face banishment, imprisonment, or death. Militant Islamic groups will threaten Christians to get them to return to Islam, and believers in detention centers undergo extreme mental and physical torture.

Here is how you can pray for believers in Yemen:

  • Pray that believers would remain courageous in spite of the persecution they face.
  • Pray that God would change the mindset of society so that Christians could practice their faith freely.
  • Pray that humanitarian aid would reach those in need and be a source of displaying God’s love to others.


Only three Christian denominations are allowed in Eritrea: Orthodox, Catholic, and Lutheran. Security forces regularly conduct house-to-house raids to find Christians practicing other denominations of the faith. Christians from other denominations or Muslims who convert to Christianity face imprisonment and violence.

Here is how you can pray for believers in Eritrea:

  • Pray that God would change the hearts of leaders to allow more freedom for Christians.
  • Pray for joy and peace for imprisoned believers.
  • Pray that Christians from other denominations and Muslim converts would be protected from harm.


With no central government, Libya is run by extremist groups, who regularly kidnap and kill Christians. Muslims who convert to Christianity face intense pressure to renounce their newfound faith or be killed. Those who share the gospel are often arrested or murdered by extremist groups.

Here is how you can pray for believers in Libya:

  • Pray that law and order would come to Libya to protect all who live there.
  • Pray that God would keep extremist groups from harming believers.
  • Pray that Christians would be able to share the gospel without retribution.

Prayer is a powerful tool to not only build up followers of Christ but to soften the hearts of those who do not know the Savior. For more information on praying for the persecuted or unreached, check out East-West’s prayer resources.