How does Open Doors produce the World Watch List?

The World Watch List is an annual ranking of the 50 countries where Christians face the most persecution. It’s a unique, in-depth record of the places where Christians are following Jesus no matter the cost. The data for the World Watch List 2020 covers period 1 November 2018 to 31 October 2019.

North Korean woman

Open Doors understands persecution as 'any hostility experienced as a result of one's identification with Christ’. But measuring persecution is a complex task, and measuring faith-based persecution is even more complex. In many countries, persecution is multidimensional – gender and ethnicity will also play a role, for instance.

To create a comprehensive list, the World Watch Research Unit works closely with researchers in the field to collect survey data and secondary data in the following six areas:

  • Private life. What freedom does a Christian have to worship and own religious material? Is conversion to Christianity allowed? Is freedom of thought permitted?
  • Family life. How free are Christians to express their faith within their family? Is it possible to hold Christian family milestones, such as Christian marriages and funerals?
  • Community life. Can Christians live without harassment and discrimination in their local communities? How does their faith affect their education or employment?
  • National life. Does the government allow Christians to express their faith? Can converts call themselves Christians on official documents? Do the police target Christians?
  • Church life. Are Christians allowed to meet together? Can they build churches? And if they can, are they heavily monitored? Are Bibles freely available?
  • Violence. Are Christians attacked mentally or physically? Are they arrested, abducted, tortured, imprisoned or even killed? Do they face sexual harassment?

Each of these areas is scored, and each of the 150 countries assessed is then given a score out of a hundred for the severity of persecution. A score of 81-100 equates to ‘extreme’ persecution; 61-80 is ‘very high’ and 41-60 is ‘high’.

Research methods and results have been independently audited by the International Institute for Religious Freedom (IIRF).

View the World Watch List 2020.