A total of 340 million Christians around the world will live with high levels of persecution in the following year, according to advocacy group Open Doors USA.

In their 2021 watch list, Open Doors USA found that the biggest concern for Christians globally was rising oppression during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The coronavirus pandemic was the event of a generation. And in addition to the pain felt by people all over the world, it also exposed the ugliness of Christian persecution in a new way,” the group wrote.

The five most dangerous countries to practice Christianity in 2021 are North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya and Pakistan, but the pandemic has made many more places more dangerous.

Christians in countries like India, Bangladesh and Myanmar all reported being refused aid because of their faith. During a food aid program organized by Open Doors in India, 80% of Indian Christians said they were overlooked by other assistance programs.

“Sometimes, this denial was at the hands of government officials, but more often, it was from village heads, committees or other local leaders. Some Christians even reported that their food ration cards were torn up or waved away.”

Despite the risk of coronavirus, terrorist actors still left their homes to murder Christians in many countries, particularly in Nigeria where Islamist violence skyrocketed in the past year.

Countries in Africa where Islamist violence was previously rare like Burkina Faso, Mozambique, and the DR Congo all made it on the list for increasing violence in the past year.

In India, ranked 10th on the list, Christians fear that surveillance introduced under the guise of contact tracing will actually be used for future persecution, while in China surveillance is already used to prevent Christians from worshipping and the sharing of Christian content.

“The global pandemic made persecution more obvious than ever—simply because so many people needed help,” Open Doors wrote.

“The clear discrimination and oppression suffered by Christians in 2020 must not be forgotten, even after the COVID-19 crisis fades into our collective memory.”

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