Persecution against Christians around the world, especially in Asian and African countries, has been on the rise in the past year.
A report released by Open Doors International shows that the COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated discrimination.
The 2022 World Watch List (WWL), which was released on Wednesday, January 19, shows that over 360 million people endured persecution and discrimination in their country last year.
Overall, 5,898 Christians were killed, 5,110 churches were attacked or closed, 6,175 Christians were arrested without trial, and 3,829 were kidnapped.
Afghanistan ranks first as the most dangerous country for Christians, especially after the Taliban takeover in August 2021, overtaking North Korea.
The report, however, says that the situation of religious freedom under Kim Jong-Un has continued to worsen in the period examined, placing the country second in the list after ranking first for 20 years.
Four out of the first five countries recording the highest rate of anti-Christian violence are Islamic States where both political unrest and religious extremism have grown.
Apart from Afghanistan, the list includes Somalia (3), Libia (4), and Yemen (5). These are followed by Eritrea, Nigeria, Pakistan, Iran, India, Saudi Arabia, Myanmar, Sudan, Iraq and Siria.
The report notes that Pakistan ranks second for anti-Christian violence, but attacks against Christians are also still growing significantly in neighboring India.
The coronavirus pandemic has also legitimized increased surveillance and restrictions by authoritarian governments, says the report.
It says that while Islamic extremism continues to create the most persecution, COVID-19 restrictions “have become an easy way to tighten control and surveillance over religious minorities and worship services” in China and other nations.
It also notes that many of the estimated 84 million internally displaced people, and of the 26 million refugees recorded in 2021, were Christians.
In countries like Myanmar the military crackdown in Christian-majority Chin State and Kachin, Kayah, Shan States displaced 200,000 Christians and forced about 20,000 to flee the country.
“This year’s findings indicate seismic changes in the persecution landscape,” said David Curry, president of Open Doors USA.
The 2022 report tracks the time period from October 1, 2020, to September 20, 2021, and is compiled from grassroots reports by Open Doors workers in more than 60 countries.