The NGO Doors Open published a report indicating that more than 340 million Christians were “severely persecuted” across the world in 2020, a figure up 30% compared to 2019 and made worse by the health crisis due to Covid .
The Protestant NGO Doors Open publishes an annual report on religious freedom in the world. The one covering the period from October 1, 2019 to September 30, 2020 is published on January 13, 2021, and its Global Index of Persecution of Christians is visible on the association’s website.
The association notes that more than 340 million Christians were “severely persecuted” around the world last year, a phenomenon which is constantly increasing and which has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
These 340 million Christians of all branches – Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, Baptists, Evangelicals, Pentecostals – have suffered discrimination ranging from “discreet daily oppression” to “the most extreme violence”. Data from 2019 reported that around 260 million Christians had been persecuted and 2,983 killed because of their religion, numbers already increasing from 2018 and certainly underestimated. The Doors Open study in fact confined its study to 50 countries when, according to it, “74 countries presented extreme levels of persecution.”
Persecution aggravated by the Covid-19 pandemic and concentrated in Africa and Asia
In 2020, “persecuted Christian minorities have faced unprecedented violence and further discrimination. The Covid-19 has amplified the trends that we have seen emerging for several years ”, according to the NGO partner of Open Doors International and which has existed in France since 1976. An amplification due to the fact that Christians have in certain places been designated as scapegoats responsible for the epidemic, discriminated against in access to government food aid, deliberately exposed to the disease (with Christian health professionals to whom we assign patients with Covid-19, sometimes without protection) or victims of domestic violence (converted Christians finding themselves locked up with their persecutors during confinement), kidnappings and forced marriages, due to the decline in police protection in the public space.
For Patrick Victor, director of Open Doors France, these persecutions concern “one in six Christians in Africa, and two in five in Asia”. He also points out that more than 90% of Christians killed were in sub-Saharan Africa. Nigeria leads the country where Christians are killed for their faith with 3,530 deaths out of a total of 4,761 worldwide, a number that has increased by 60% from 2019.
Doors Open noted, however, a halving of the number of churches closed, attacked, damaged, or burnt down between 2019 and 2020 (4,488, compared to 9,488 in 2019). In this area, China comes first, far ahead of Nigeria. For Patrick Victor, “in China, as in India, the persecution of Christians is systematic, even systemic”.
All persecutions combined, North Korea, where “faith in God is a crime against the regime” according to the NGO, remains in the lead this sad annual list. Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, Pakistan and Eritrea follow. A very worrying situation and which should continue, the persecutions against Christians having as main engines religious nationalism in Asia and Islamic extremism in Africa, two phenomena in extension.