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The World Watch What? Everything you need to know about the World Watch List


05 January 2018

What is the World Watch List?

The World Watch List is Open Doors’ annual ranking of the 50 countries where Christians face the most extreme persecution.

How does Open Doors define persecution?

Open Doors understands persecution as any hostility experienced as a result of one's identification with Christ. This can include hostile attitudes, words and actions towards Christians.

How do you measure persecution for the World Watch List?

Using data gathered from independent experts and from Open Doors workers on the ground, our research team measures the degree of freedom Christians have to live out their faith in five spheres of life - private, family, community, national and church life - plus a sixth sphere measuring levels of violence. A point system is used to give each country a score for these six spheres, and this is used to calculate where on the World Watch List each country should go.

Why do you look at all these areas of life? Why don’t you just focus on violent persecution?

While violent persecution is what you are most likely to hear about in the news, other, less dramatic forms of persecution are often just as effective, and can be harder to identify and prevent.

Our research team distinguishes two main expressions of persecution: 'squeeze' (the suffocating pressure Christians experience in all areas of life) and 'smash' (plain violence).

Smash can be tracked through incidents of violence or aggression, such as rapes, kidnappings, forcible evictions, killings and church burnings.

Squeeze needs to be tracked by discerning how the exercise of the Christian faith gets squeezed, in five distinct areas - private life, family life, community life, national life and church life.

While it would seem that smash is the most prevalent and invasive expression of persecution, it is often the squeeze that is most common and difficult to stop. Dr. Ronald Boyd-MacMillan, Director of Research at Open Doors International, explains, "It is possible for persecution to be so intense in all areas of life that Christians fear to witness at all, and so you may find very low levels of violence as a result since incidents of persecution often result from acts of witness."

What questions do you ask to identify ‘squeeze’?

Private life. This covers individual freedom of thought and expression of belief. How free is a Christian to relate to God as an individual? Is conversion to Christianity allowed? Can you worship privately and possess religious materials?

Family life. How free are Christians to express their faith within their family?  Will they be thrown out? Is it possible to live as a Christian family, to celebrate in a Christian way family events like marriages and funerals?

Community life. Is it possible for Christians to live without harassment and discrimination in their local communities? What is it like to be a Christian in the local school or workplace? Will you be driven out of your village?

National life. Are national institutions – such as the government, legal system and media – opposed to Christianity? Is it illegal to express your faith? Can you call yourself Christian on your ID or passport? Will the police or security forces come calling?

Church life. Are you actually allowed to meet together as Christians? Can you build churches? And if you can, will they be heavily monitored? Can Christian leaders be trained? Are Bibles freely available?

What is the World Watch List for?

  • To help churches and individuals to understand where their church family is in most need of their prayers and support. You can find information and prayer points for each country on our country profiles, which will be updated with new information on 10 January at 1pm. Look out for other World Watch List resources for individuals and churches coming soon.
  • To help the media to understand the trends and underlying causes behind their headlines.
  • To help our leaders to understand that Christians around the world are facing persecution, and that they can act to end persecution and promote freedom of religion and belief. Invite your MP to the parliamentary launch of the 2018 World Watch List on 17 January.

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