The Most Dangerous Countries to be a Christian in 2024
Christian persecution is on the rise worldwide, according to the latest World Watch List report from Open Doors. The report, which tracks the top 50 countries where Christians face the greatest persecution each year, found that 14,766 churches and Christian properties were attacked in 2023, a seven-fold increase from the previous year. That number was driven by mob violence, forced church closures, and attacks in several countries.
Globally, more than 365 million Christians face persecution each year; that equates to one in seven believers. Many of the countries with the most severe persecution are also where large numbers of unreached people live.
The following are more high-level statistics from the 2024 World Watch List:
- Nearly 5,000 Christians were murdered for their faith last year.
- More than 295,000 Christians were displaced from their homes.
- At least 10,000 churches closed in China in 2023.
- More than 80% of Christian killings took place in Nigeria.
One way believers can help their persecuted brothers and sisters around the world is to pray for them. Through prayer, the Lord will strengthen, comfort, or even protect those facing harm.
Here are the top five countries on the 2024 World Watch List and ways to pray for believers in these places.
There are only two outcomes if authorities discover someone is a Christian in North Korea: a life sentence in a labor camp or being executed on the spot. The same goes for family members of believers. Even possessing a Bible will lead to punishment.
There are an estimated 400,000 Christians in North Korea, tens of thousands of whom are believed to be held in labor camps. Some believers try to flee to China, but North Korea has made efforts in the past year to fortify its border with China, making it difficult to escape.
Here is how you can pray for believers in North Korea:
- Pray for the Lord to strengthen those who are in labor camps so they can endure in the faith.
- Pray for God to protect those who hold secret prayer meetings and those who own Bibles.
- Pray that efforts to spread the gospel through secret networks would be hidden from the eyes of government authorities.
An Islamic militant group known as al-Shabab desires to eradicate Christians from Somalia. Those who follow Jesus could face harassment, intimidation, or death. Many Christians are Muslim converts, and converting from Islam is considered betrayal.
Less than 2% of Somalia’s population is Christian, according to the Joshua Project. Any attempts to establish or re-open a church in the country have been met with attacks from Islamic militants.
Here is how you can pray for believers in Somalia:
- Pray that believers would be delivered from attacks from al-Shabab.
- Pray that the Lord would reveal Himself to Islamic militants in dreams and visions.
- Pray that believers would persevere through these extreme levels of persecution.
Libya’s political instability has led to an increase in violence—especially toward the country’s 35,000 Christians—in the past year. Anarchy caused by two opposing governing bodies has led to lawlessness and Islamic extremism. Muslim converts are the easiest targets and can face house arrest, attack, abduction, sexual violence, and murder.
Christians from other countries often travel through Libya as they try to reach Europe, and even they are not immune to persecution. Because they are not Libyan citizens, these believers can be kidnapped or trafficked. Libya rose two spots on the World Watch List this year because of increased violence toward Christians.
Here is how you can pray for believers in Libya:
- Pray for stability to come to Libya’s government and for an end to Islamic extremism.
- Pray that migrants would find safe passage to Europe.
- Pray that Libyan believers will have the joy and strength to continue following Jesus.
Despite Christianity making up about half of Eritrea’s population, believers still face intense persecution. Eritrea’s government only recognizes three Christian denominations: Eritrean Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Lutheran. All other followers of Jesus are at risk of discrimination or harm from their families, communities, and the government. Even sanctioned churches are closely monitored.
Believers from other denominations are often sent to prison without being formally charged with a crime. There, they experience horrid conditions, including solitary confinement and tiny prison cells.
Here is how you can pray for believers in Eritrea:
- Pray that God would move the hearts of government leaders to recognize more Christian denominations.
- Pray that believers in prison would have peace and endurance.
- Pray that the gospel would spread in Eritrea despite obstacles.
Converting from Islam is illegal in Yemen, which means believers must hide their faith. Being discovered as a Christian could lead to separation from a spouse or children, arrest, or death. Less than 1% of Yemen’s population is Christian, and most believers are former Muslims.
Yemen’s civil war has made life more difficult for believers. Humanitarian aid is often distributed through Muslim groups and mosques, which are accused of discriminating against those who are not Muslim. Few places are safe for Christians with certain regions ruled by militant groups, such as Houthis in the north and al-Qaeda in the South.
Here is how you can pray for believers in Yemen:
- Pray that the few Christians in Yemen would have the courage to share their faith with loved ones.
- Pray that the hearts of persecutors would be softened toward the gospel.
- Pray for an end to the decade-long civil war.
Millions of Christians are in need of prayer every day. Continue to pray for persecuted believers as the early Church did for Paul—that the message of the Lord will spread rapidly and that believers will be delivered from those who wish them harm (2 Thessalonians 3:1-2). For more information on praying for the persecuted and the unreached, check out East-West’s prayer resources.