Every Christian in Afghanistan ‘On the Run or in Hiding’: Open Doors 2022 World Watch List

21 January 2022

2.7 MINS

Open Doors just released its 2022 ‘World Watch List’ which ranks the 50 countries where it is most difficult to follow Jesus. For the first time in two decades, North Korea is not in top spot due to the worsening situation in Afghanistan. Open Doors has also called on Christians to boycott the Beijing Winter Olympics over increased persecution by the Chinese Communist Party.

Afghanistan is the most dangerous country in the world for Christians, according to Open Doors USA’s most recent World Watch List. It is the first time in 20 years that North Korea was not listed in first place on the watchdog’s persecution index.

The 2022 list was released this week at a virtual press conference, where Open Doors CEO David Curry revealed “the most seismic changes in the history of our research”. Curry explained that Afghanistan took top place because persecution there has grown worse, not because of any improvements in North Korea.

According to Curry, every Christian who stayed in Afghanistan following the chaotic withdrawal of Western powers in August 2021 “is either on the run or in hiding.”

The 50 Hardest Places to Follow Jesus

The influential World Watch List ranks the 50 places in the world where it is most difficult to follow Jesus. Open Doors has determined that in the top ten countries — Afghanistan, North Korea, Somalia, Libya, Yemen, Eritrea, Nigeria, Pakistan, Iran and India — Christians suffer “extreme” levels of persecution.

In the remaining 40 nations, the “pressure, intolerance and violence” Christians can experience is “very high”.

Open Doors

David Curry said that the 2022 World Watch list “shows that 360 million Christians globally now suffer high levels of persecution and discrimination. That’s one in seven Christians worldwide.”

Most of the countries on the index are located in Asia and Africa, where Islamic oppression, religious nationalism, dictatorial paranoia, and communist or post-communist oppression are common sources of persecution.

According to the 2022 report, almost 6,000 Christians were killed for their faith during the last year, while over 5,000 churches and Christian buildings were attacked. Over 6,000 believers were detained without trial, arrested or imprisoned for their faith.

The Persecution of Believers in Afghanistan

In a U.S. State Department report released in 2009, there were an estimated 500 to 8,000 Christians practicing their faith secretly in Afghanistan. The only physical church in the country before the Taliban took control last year was a Roman Catholic chapel for expatriates in the Italian Embassy.

David Curry recounts that “shortly after the Taliban seized control, a list was circulated with the names of prominent Christians. Somehow, this list fell into the hands of the Taliban.” He added that “those listed were among the first to be hunted.”

“The Taliban’s interpretation of Islam considers Christians to be traitors, enemies of the state, enemies of the tribe and community,” he explains. “They are infidels from Islam, and in their mind, the punishment is death.”

Curry believes that the Taliban’s recapturing of Afghanistan has not just intensified persecution there, but has sparked a rise in Islamic extremism across the region.

As the Daily Declaration noted in August last year, it is not just Christians who now suffer in Afghanistan, but Muslim women and children too.

A Call to Boycott the Beijing Winter Olympics

A prominent emphasis for Open Doors is prayer. In conduction with their release of 2022’s World Watch List, the organisation has made available to the public a booklet called “52 Weeks of Prayer for Persecuted Christians”. The booklet can be downloaded here.


In addition to prayer, Open Doors’ CEO has urged Christians to boycott the 2022 Winter Olympics scheduled to begin in Beijing this February. Curry highlighted the upcoming games as “one example of how China is using sports, money and investment in infrastructure around the world to whitewash their human rights violations.”

China ranked 17th on this year’s World Watch List, and Curry devoted a significant portion of the press release to discussing the religious persecution taking place there at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.

“Open Doors USA … is calling on every Christian to join this boycott of the Olympics in the name of our persecuted brothers and sisters in China,” he said.

The 2022 World Watch List can be viewed at the Open Doors website.

Image by Getty via The Scotsman.

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One Comment

  1. Kaylene Emery 21 January 2022 at 1:53 pm - Reply

    Thank you for this article n up date Kurt. Can you help me to reconcile the following please ?
    According to world media it was the Biden Administration who by their abrupt evacuation of American troops from Afghanistan, helped to inflame the current killing mentality there . In the 50/60 video David Curry et al referenced the Biden A, in a positive light ?
    Given this administrations covid response it is not difficult to believe world media, in this instance.
    I am very new to ‘interested in politics’ what am I missing or mis understanding ?

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