RELEASE – 2020 Open Doors World Watch List Heightens Urgency of Persecuted Christians Worldwide

For Immediate Release | January 17, 2020

Save the Persecuted Christians Points to Nigeria’s Unchanged Ranking, Even Amid Especially Violent Year in African Nation

WASHINGTON—Open Doors USA, a community of Christians who come together to support persecuted believers in more than 60 countries with more than 60 years of experience, released its 2020 World Watch List this week. The annual report ranks the top 50 countries where Christians are persecuted for their faith.

Open Doors, a coalition partner of Save the Persecuted Christians (STPC), supports persecuted Christians by providing Bibles, emergency aid, discipleship training, vocational instruction, trauma counseling, advocacy and many other kinds of support. STPC is a bipartisan, multi-faith coalition of nearly 200 civil society, faith and community leaders who—bolstered by thousands of impassioned Americans and others—advocate for the hundreds of millions of persecuted Christians globally.

“Persecuted Christians in the 50 most dangerous countries have increased to 260 million, up from 245 million in 2019,” noted Dede Laugesen, executive director for Save the Persecuted Christians. “Interestingly, the African nation of Nigeria remained unchanged at No. 12. Although still rated ‘very high’ for persecution, due to the methodology used, the country is not ranked for ‘extreme’ persecution despite their account of 1,350 confirmed deaths of Nigerian Christians martyred for their faith. Open Doors does, however, recognize Nigeria as the second most violent country for Christians after Pakistan. As such, the World Watch List is a valuable platform to call out the genocide of Christians in Nigeria and West Africa. Christians in Nigeria are certainly experiencing extreme consequences for their faith in Jesus.”

STPC is urging the appointment of  a U.S. special envoy to Nigeria and the Lake Chad region because of extreme and heightened violence against Christians there. At least 1,000 Christians were killed in 2019, with more than 5,000 killed since 2015. While the murders of Christians in Nigeria are down from 2018, abductions-for-ransom, which provide funding for terrorists, have increased significantly and cause many to flee their homes. ISWAP beheaded 10 Christian aid workers at Christmas, and others held captive by jihadist groups are subjected to sex slavery and other horrific abuse.

According to the 2020 World Watch List, 260 million Christians are victims of high to extreme levels of persecution (i.e., torture, rape, sex-slavery, expulsion, murder and genocide), an increase of nearly 6% over 2019. Open Doors also estimates 1 in 8 of the world’s Christians experience persecution, and that in 2019: 2,983 Christians were killed for their faith, with nearly half of those in Nigeria, 3,711 were detained without trial, arrested, sentenced and imprisoned; and 9,488 churches or Christian buildings were attacked.

Additional significant facts and trends from the 2020 World Watch List report include the following, according to Open Doors:

  1. In the most populated countries on earth, Christians live in a surveillance state, such as China (No. 23) and India (No. 10).
  2. Violent Islamic extremism spikes in sub-Saharan Africa, including Burkina Faso (No. 28, a rise of 33 spots from 2019), Mali (No. 29), Central African Republic (No. 25), Cameroon (No. 48) and Nigeria (No. 12).
  3. Militant Islam spreads violence and fear in Southeast and South Asia, including Sri Lanka (No. 30, up from 46 in 2019) and Pakistan (No. 5).
  4. Christianity is on the verge of disappearing in Iraq (No. 15) and Syria (No. 11).

Released at the beginning of each year, the World Watch List uses data from Open Doors field workers and external experts to quantify and analyze persecution worldwide. Countries are ranked by the severity of persecution of Christians, calculated by analyzing the level of violent persecution plus the pressure experienced in five spheres of life. For detailed methodology, visit

Save the Persecuted Christians has a mission to save lives and save souls by disseminating actionable information about the magnitude of the persecution taking place globally and by mobilizing concerned Americans for the purpose of disincentivizing further attacks on those who follow Jesus.

One method is through “The People of the Cross” exhibit, which features images, facts and quotes about the persecution of Christians in multiple countries. Banners feature countries such as Nigeria, Turkey, North Korea, China and others. A majority of the nations highlighted on the banners are high on Open Doors’ 2020 World Watch List.

“The People of the Cross” exhibit has been joined by another, “Warfare on Women,” which reveals the specific terror-tactic used to demean and degrade female believers to instill fear into the heart of Christian communities. To learn more about hosting a traveling exhibit contact Save the Persecuted Christians or visit the website.

Save the Persecuted Christians has developed a dedicated news aggregator——to capture current instances of persecution and to provide readers with an easy way to share these heartbreaking stories with others. Stories are categorized and resource reports are easily accessible.

With so much of the world’s Christian population being attacked, imprisoned and/or exiled for their beliefs, the need has never been greater for the sort of grassroots campaign STPC’s SaveUs Movement is working to foster. Its efforts are modeled after a miraculously successful one that helped free another population suffering from heavy persecution—Soviet Jews—by penalizing those in the Kremlin responsible for such repression. Through this movement, Save the Persecuted Christians endeavors to provide American policymakers with the popular support they need to effect real change worldwide and alleviate systemically the suffering being experienced by so many of those following Christ.


To interview a Save the Persecuted Christians representative, contact