What is the World Watch List?

Young Iraqi
 refugees in Erbil, Kurdistan, in 2014.
Young Iraqi refugees in Erbil, Kurdistan, in 2014.

Open Doors

The World Watch List is an annual report prepared and published by the World Watch Research team of Open Doors. It ranks the 50 countries where it is most difficult to profess and practice the Christian faith.

The research team surveys religious freedom for Christians in five areas of life:

• Private
• Family
• Community
• National
• The Church

Separately, the team also measures violence against Christians.

Learn more: A description of the 5 affected areas of life

For each country surveyed, scores for each of the six categories are combined to create a total score. The scores determine the country’s ranking on the World Watch List.

See the 2017 World Watch List here

Interactive map of 2017 World Watch List countries. Bright red equals extreme persecution. Zoom out to see all 50 countries. Click on individual countries for details.

Note: This interactive map does not include the Maldives, ranked No. 13, an archepelago about 400 kilometres southwest of India, in the Indian Ocean

The list is published in January each year. The survey period beings Nov. 1, and concludes Oct. 31 of the following year. Thus, the list released January 2017 – The “2017 World Watch List” – is the product of the survey that covers the period from 1 Nov. 2015 to 31 Oct. 2016.

Beginning with the 2014 World Watch List, the research methods used by Open Doors have been audited by the International Institute for Religious Freedom, which researches the persecution of adherents of any religion. The institute, which is independent of Open Doors, assesses the methodology, processes, design and questionnaire of the World Watch List.

List of Open Doors affiliate websites where the 2017 World Watch List can be found












New Zealand





South Africa

South Korea




United Kingdom

United States

Catching Our Eye

Repression of Maldives Christians to intensify

The President of the Maldives has vowed to enact a national programme to “promote Islamic unity and foster religious and national spirit”.

President Abdulla Yameen, speaking earlier this week at this year’s official opening of parliament, said the programme would begin within three months.

The Maldivian legal system has been increasingly aligned with a hardline interpretation of Sharia since Yameen, who has employed the language of Islam in re-orienting Maldivian foreign policy away from a pro-Western stance, took power in 2013.

The archipelago is home to several thousand “underground” Christians, who are prohibited from meeting for worship, building churches or owning a Bible. It is ranked 13th on the 2017 Open Doors World Watch List of the 50 countries in which it is most difficult to live as a Christian.

Source: Maldives Independent

IS to cast long shadow over Iraqi civilians

Violence and deep division will continue to imperil Iraqi civilians long after Islamic State (IS) is driven out from the territory it captured, according to a lengthy dispatch from the devastated Iraqi city of Fallujah.

After The Caliphate, published on BuzzFeed, quotes a senior official in Fallujah, Taleb al-Hosnawi, warning that IS is “trying to set up sleeper cells”.

Within Iraq’s vast western Anbar Province, a bitter divide has emerged “between those who fought ISIS and those who accommodated them”, writes Borzou Daragahi.

He says that unofficial (“kangaroo”) courts “administer harsh and speedy justice” and that the state is too “overwhelmed and cash-strapped” to start the rebuilding of Iraq’s bombed-out cities.

A local tribal sheikh adds that reviving the northern city of Mosul, to where many of the thousands of expelled Christians are wanting to return, could be made more difficult by its former mix of ethnicities and faiths.

Thai Buddhist calls for action against nationalism

A Thai Buddhist has called for Buddhist-majority countries like Thailand to halt the rise of nationalism, intolerance and hate speech.

“It’s very dangerous, much more dangerous than weapons,” said Sulak Sivaraksa during a recent panel discussion on the Channel NewsAsia programme Between The Lines.

As World Watch Monitor reported in October, Buddhism, universally recognised as a “peaceful religion”, is increasingly becoming associated with violent nationalism.

As Channel NewsAsia reports, Bodu Bala Sena has been responsible for “hundreds of attacks against Muslims and Christians” in Sri Lanka, “in the name of protecting the country’s Buddhist culture”, while in Myanmar, “hardline monks of the ultra-nationalist Ma Ba Tha group have been fuelling sentiment against the Muslim Rohingya”.

Religiously motivated nationalism was among the most prevalent trends in the 2017 Open Doors World Watch List of the 50 countries in which it is hardest to live as a Christian.

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