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The Persecution of Christians in Restricted Nations

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Christian persecution has risen to alarming levels in the 21st century. According to the Pew Research Center, Christianity is the most persecuted religion, with adherents facing harassment in up to 145 countries. Similarly, watchdog groups like Open Doors USA estimate that 360 million Christians live in countries in which persecution is significant.

Studies show that one in seven Christians is persecuted worldwide, one in five Christians face persecution in Africa, and two in five Christians face persecution in Asia. In fact, a number of countries restrict religious freedom to the extent that it remains an international concern. A look at some of the top nations that impose religious restrictions can raise awareness of the challenges Christians face while practicing their faith.

North Korea

As an authoritative state, the North Korean government requires absolute loyalty to the nation and its leader. In North Korea, the Kim Dynasty represents a personality cult, and government teachings depict members of the dynasty as semi-divine. Since Christianity espouses higher loyalty to God, the North Korean government can prosecute anyone caught practicing the religion as an enemy of the state.

Believers often meet in secret, and those caught preaching about Jesus can face immediate imprisonment, brutal torture, or death in one of the country’s infamous prison camps. Activists believe that torture practices in these prison camps represent some of the most prominent examples of Christian persecution in East Asia today.


Once the Taliban regained control of the country, the regime vowed that Afghanistan would operate as a fundamentalist theocracy. The group’s leaders view Christianity as a Western religion, and the nation does not recognize any of its citizens as Christian. According to the BBC, Christians in the Middle East already faced religious persecution at near-genocidal levels.

But in areas of particular unrest like Afghanistan, practicing Christians face additional scrutiny from local magistrates and clan leaders. As a result, Christians risk rejection from their families, and there are documented cases of forced conversion attempts in makeshift mental hospitals. While individuals of Afghan descent face the greatest peril due to clan ties, foreign Christian aid workers have also faced abduction or death within the regime.


Plagued with civil war, the nation of Somalia relies heavily on the guidance of rival clan leaders. Most clan leaders view their version of Islam as the state religion and conversion to any other faith is illegal. In fact, apostolic administrators of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Mogadishu have stated that it is not possible to practice Christianity in Somalia.

Salvatore Colombo, the last bishop of Mogadishu, died of assassination in 1989. Unfortunately, violence has continued to persist as some leaders of the extremist group al-Shabaab vow to rid the nation of all Christians. Many militants believe that it is permissible to kill suspected Christians on the spot, and most charitable organizations warn aid workers that it is unsafe to carry bibles within the country.


Since Boku Haram rose to prominence in the 21st century, thousands of Nigerian Christians have faced abduction, flogging, or death. The term “Boku Haram” refers to the ideology that all Western education is forbidden. For adherents to this military group, this forbidden Western influence also includes Christianity. The group has often targeted Christian boarding schools and churches for member abduction as well as building demolition

In the northern part of the country, many Christians are essentially second-class citizens and lack access to clean water and healthcare. Despite the fact that there are over 80 million Christians in this large country, persecuted Christians in the northern region face some of the highest rates of violence and martyrdom than anywhere else in West Africa.


The persecution of Iraqi Christians first became news in the Western world when these minorities fled the country after the fall of Saddam Hussein. As ISIS rose to prominence in the region, groups of practicing Christians faced forced conversion, punitive taxes, or public execution. For example, experts estimate that nearly 100,000 Christians fled their homes in Mosul to avoid martyrdom once ISIS took control of the city. There are documented cases in which the militant group has televised executions for propaganda purposes as well as razed and demolished church buildings completely.


While many people associate persecution with early Christianity, Nero, and Ancient Rome, violence against Christians remains a valid concern in restricted nations across the globe. In our interconnected world, it is important to recognize the challenges that Christians face in the pursuit of religious freedom that no one should take for granted.


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