An annual report spotlighting global persecution of Christians has listed Afghanistan as the most dangerous country for the community—the first time in two decades the strife-torn nation has replaced North Korea at the top of the watchdog’s list.
Since the Taliban toppled the government in Afghanistan last year, many Christians have been forced to go into hiding, says the report, which catalogs 50 countries “where it’s most difficult to follow Jesus.” The report, sorted by “source of persecution” as well as every country’s main religion, contains capsules of information for each country.
“When the Taliban took over Afghanistan in 2021, Christians knew they were in immediate danger,” even though the extremist group “tried to appear moderate—but there’s no sign that Christianity will be anything other than a death sentence,” the report says.
Most Christians in Afghanistan are converts from Islam, and it is “impossible to live openly as a Christian” in the country, the report says. “Leaving Islam is considered shameful, and Christian converts face dire consequences if their new faith is discovered. … This was true before the Taliban takeover: The situation has become even more dangerous for believers this year.”
Further, the families, clans or tribes of Christian converts are traditionally bound to save their honor “by disowning the believer, or even killing them,” the report notes. “Alternatively, since leaving Islam is considered a sign of insanity, a Christian who has converted from Islam may be forcibly sent to a psychiatric hospital.”
“Our situation is desperate,” says a Christian identified only as “Zabi,” a well-educated woman from a family of secret believers who crossed the border into another country along with her mother when the Taliban took over. “I have money in my bank account, but cannot access it from here. I have a visa, but it will expire soon. What will happen to me?”
The first section of the report covers 10 countries where “extreme persecution” of Christians is rife. These include, in decreasing order, Afghanistan, North Korea, Somalia, Libya, Yemen, Eritrea, Nigeria, Pakistan, Iran, and India. All of the countries also figured in the 2021 Open Doors report.
Worldwide, reports Open Doors, the number of Christians killed because of their faith rose from 4,761 cited in the 2021 report to 5,898 this year, a 24 percent increase.
Over the past year, according to the report, more than 360 million Christians have been living in areas where they experience high levels of persecution and discrimination. 5,110 churches and other Christian buildings have been attacked, and 6,175 believers detained without trial, arrested, sentenced or imprisoned.
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